The 2011-2012 Mountaineer basketball team will certainly have a different look to it as Coach Bob Huggins has only four players returning from last year's squad. And while there are only 4 veterans returning, WVU will have it's first ever pair of returning 1000 point scorers in Kevin Jones and Darryl "Truck" Bryant. KJ, along with Truck are the unquestioned leaders of this Mountaineer squad. Being the only 2 seniors kind of makes them that by default, yet if they were only juniors, the mantle would still fall to them as they return the most experience by far. Today, in part one of our two part preview, we will look at KJ, Truck, Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Noreen. In part two (coming next week) we will break down the newcomers.
Kevin Jones - 6'8" 260 lbs Senior Forward
As a junior, KJ started all 33 games and averaged 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game. He enters the season only 11 offensive rebounds shy of Chris Brooks' all-time WVU record of 320. Jones is a tenacious defender and excellent rebounder who is becoming a deadlier scorer with an increasingly reliable outside shot (he shot 44.6% from the field last year). While he started last season rather slowly (by his own standards), he finished on a strong note putting up double-doubles in the final 3 games of the regular season, including a 25 point/16 rebound effort against Louisville. Here's what Huggs had to say about Kevin earlier this week:
"(Jones) is going to be our leader, there is no doubt about that," Huggins predicted. "He just has to continue to do what KJ does, and that is making open shots and rebound the ball. He is our best defender. He is a three-man that can guard the five. He can conceivably be in the top 10 in scoring and top 15 in rebounding and he could be the best offensive rebounder here. That is pretty good, especially at a place like this that has had some good guys play here."
Darryl "Truck" Bryant - 6'2" 195 lbs Senior Guard
Truck played/started in all but one game last year at the point for the Mountaineers, averaging 11.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.96 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. Truck will likely be asked to spend more of his senior season as the "2" guard as highly regarded freshmen Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne will be battling for the point slot. He needs to improve his reliability and be more consistent as a scorer (he scored in double figures in 18 of 32 games, but only averaged 11.3 ppg) and hopefully his fearlessness to drive the rim will be tempered a bit. Huggs contends that with the burden of running the point lessened, Truck's shooting should be more reliable:
"I would like him to have the ball less," Huggins said. "I would like him to be a receiver; I would rather him be a catcher than a pitcher. He is our best perimeter shooter and he will be our most consistent perimeter shooter."
"When we got him off the ball he started to make his shots. He just has less things to worry and think about."
Deniz Kilicli - 6'9" 260 lbs Junior Forward
A fan favorite, the Istan-Bull played in all 33 games (starting 12) and averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game last season. Kilicli is a big man with soft hands that can receive and pass the ball well. He has shown flashes of scoring ability during his first two years under Coach Huggins as he scored routinely in spurts with a 48.6 shooting percentage, but consistency must be developed. He needs to improve his defensive reliability as he was frequently pulled out of games in defensive situations late and his rebounding must improve as well because, as coach put it, "Jerry's statue got as many as he did a lot of games." Averaging only 4 rebounds a game at his size won't cut it in the Big East. The 260 lb frame is reportedly slimmer than in the past and that should lead to an improved game from the big Turk. Coach also had this to add about Deniz:
"He is a lot better," said Huggins. "He is in so much better physical condition. His skill level is better. Deniz just needs to continue to buy in."
Kevin Noreen - 6'10" 245 lbs Freshman(r) Forward
Noreen is the only virtually unknown amongst the returning Mountaineer cagers. He played in only 7 games last season before receiving a medical hardship red-shirt when he underwent surgery on his ruptured prepatellar bursa in January. Noreen averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in his short time on the floor for Coach Huggins. He's another agile big man with a good outside shot, but he will probably need to put on more bulk than the listed 245 pounds if he is to be counted on to provide more of an inside presence. Noreen spent the summer league in Pittsburgh as the lone veteran on the team amongst seven newcomers to the WVU program.