MORGANTOWN -Usually when a basketball team - or any other athletic squad for that matter - is struggling, the coach will point out that this is a young team.
That's not the style of West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins. He's too pugnacious and competitive to make any excuse for losing.
But Huggins would be justified to point out the youth of his squad with nine freshmen on the Mountaineer roster.
Obviously with a freshmen dominated team, several of those youngsters immediately found themselves pressed into service, if for no other reason than necessity.
The highest regarded newcomer was 5-11 point guard Jabarie Hinds of Mount Vernon, N.Y. If that location sounds familiar, it should. And no it's not because that's where George Washington's home was located. Rather, it is the hometown and high school of Mountaineer senior Kevin Jones, a candidate for Big East Conference Player of the Year.
Hinds was named the Class AA player of the year by the New York State Sportswriters Association and was the two-time Mr. Basketball by the Westchester County Basketball Coaches Association.
He led Mount Vernon to a record ninth state championship, averaging 17.7 points per game his senior season.
Hinds has started all 27 games, a feat only he and Jones have accomplished. He's suffered some growing pains along the way, but he also has showed flashes of brilliance. He averages 8.1 points per game and leads WVU in assists with 93.
Although he only has started in two games, Gary Browne has played in every game and also has impressed Mountaineer fans with his athleticism. A native of Puerto Rico, he has played with the Puerto Rico national team since he was 14. Before moving to Florida for his senior season, he led his team to the Puerto Rico national championship. Browne is averaging 6.6 points and four rebounds per game. Obviously, he will be pressed into a more major role come next season.
Aaron Brown hasn't yet earned a start, but he has earned some respect. The 6-5 forward from Darby, Pa., has played in every game, averaging 15 minutes per contest. He is averaging 4.4 points per game.
WVU recently lost the services for the remainder of the season of Kevin Noreen, who had earned a start and seemed to be making rapid progress. Plus, Keaton Miles has started in 26 of 27 games although he is averaging just 1.3 points per contest.
Other freshmen include 6-11 center Pat Forsythe, 6-8 forward Tommie McCune, and West Virginia native Paul Williamson, a 6-3 forward.
So West Virginia fans have every right to say the Mountaineers are a young team. Just don't expect to hear the head coach use that as an excuse.