There was an article that was brought to my attention from Bob Hertzel of the Times West Virginian that spoke about some of the woes and attitude problems that plagued this years men's basketball team, told rather blatantly from West Virginia senior Deniz Kilicli.
I guess he had had enough. I guess after years of being on winning teams his frustration of this years debacle had finally gotten to him. I guess he wanted the public to have a clearer picture of what we were rapidly realizing of this years team, they didn't have the willingness to win. Talent sure, but not the commitment and heart it takes to be successful at this level.
The sad thing is seeing how far WVU basketball has come over the past 10 years and then seeing a group of individuals just not take seriously how much pride and appreciation the players who wore the jersey before them and the fans who continuously support them means to this program. It was very disheartening to hear how players would laugh at what coach Huggins had to say. It showed absolutely no class that a player would make fun of a heartfelt story to highlight a point on how much WVU athletics means to the people of this state. Regardless if the story struck a cord with you or not, show some respect, be an adult, and appreciate the spotlight you are in. It's not funny.
What is funny? A record of 13-19, 7 straight losses to end the season, being 288th overall in field goal %, watching FGCU high-flying, fun loving, free-spirited team advance to the sweet 16 after only being founded 2 decades ago, while we sit at home. Unfortunately those are funny.
I'm reminded of WVU greats over the past 10 years that brought such joy and pride to this basketball program. I remember when a scrawny Mike Gansey popped his WVU jersey to the nation to showcase that WVU basketball was to be reckoned with. Notice how he easily could have pointed to the back of his jersey where his last name was embroidered on to gain some personal recognition, but he could have cared less had he scored 1 point or 30 as long as WVU came out on top.
I'm reminded of gutsy performances from Tyrone Sally, Daris Nichols, and KJ time and time again, and how they put everything on the line when they wore that WVU jersey. I remember when Da`Sean Butler was bawling on center stage after he tore his ACL in the Final Four game not because the physical pain was too much, but because he was absolutely crushed that he wouldn't be able battle with his teammates in an uphill struggle with Duke. He was emotionally distraught because he would have been willing to do anything for that team to help them win. I saw Huggs true colors that day when he put the scoreboard and his dream to win a national championship on hold and the only thing on his mind was the safety of his player who he respected so much.I saw a WVU team that day that I don't think I realized how special they were.
I don't know if Deniz speaking up was the right thing to do or not. Blasting your teammates is not exactly going to get you on anyone's good side, but he played his final game at WVU and felt like it needed to be said. While his on-court play this season was skeptical at best at least it seemed like his attitude was in the right place. In the heat of the moment, we, as fans, will get mad if you have a bad game, but after I cool down and reflect all I can ask is that you play to your potential, work hard, and represent WVU with pride and class. The problem was this team failed to live up to those standards.
I'm curious to see where Huggs goes from here. If these players who shall not be named are uncoachable does he have some cleaning house to do? With a brand new practice facility and bringing in the talent we have been bringing in, not even making the NIT is unacceptable. We as fans and donors deserve more.
This will be a big test for WVU moving forward to see how the players in the program respond to this season. If they think they are better than the program and the players that came before them, they are dead wrong. Every Mountaineer player mentioned above earned coaches and fans respect through teamwork and a desire to be great. That is what we remember, the desire to be great. I hope they can put it behind them and learn from their selfishness and when the carpet rolls out next season it will signify a fresh new start.
All season long I wanted this team to shot well, play with their head, and do what it takes to win games...in hindsight I should have watched the Rifle Team.