Bob Huggins has always been a coach who asks a lot of his players. He has never been one to shy away from letting a player know when they have made a mistake, and has always stressed the importance of playing hard and communicating, particularly on the defensive end.
A typical Huggins team will play hard defense the entire game and rely on forcing turnovers and denying easy baskets in order to win. Every player will have to guard for forty minutes, and likely guard multiple positions on the floor.
This style of play has translated well to many of his players, and has given them the tools to succeed in the professional ranks.
“Coming out of his system, we all play defense, which is really valuable,” Alex Ruoff told WVUPros. “For me, in particular, I can guard the one through four.
“Coming out of that style – the Huggins system – you can basically play anything you want and it makes us a little bit more valuable as to other players who don’t necessarily concentrate on defense.”
Huggins has put many players into the pros, and tough skin and defense – both one-on-one and team defense – have been attributes that has allowed many of them to have a high level of success, particularly in the European game.
“I think it’s more of a team defensive concept overseas,” Mountaineer and current Bourge (France) forward John Flowers told WVUPros. “The NBA is more one-on-one because they have three second rules. Over here they don’t have that.
“You really have to know how to guard and offer help defense.”
This defensive and team mindset has allowed players such as Ruoff, Flowers, Da’Sean Butler, Truck Bryant, Deniz Kilicli, and Casey Mitchell all to have different levels of success playing in the European game, both offensively and defensively.
“With Huggins’ system, when you’re playing offensively, it forces you to become more of an all-around player,” Ruoff explained. “You can’t just be a shooter that comes off screens. Because in that offense you have to pass, dribble and shoot.
“So when that translates into the pro level, you become more valuable because you’re a player that can do more things.”
While he instills the physical skills that a player needs to have success, Huggins also helps his players to gain mental toughness and discipline, as well.
“You have to have tough skin to take criticism and stuff,” Flowers explained. “You have to learn to take hard love.”
Fans can see this defensive and team discipline concept coming through in this year’s No. 14-ranked Mountaineers team (14-1, 2-0 Big 12).
WVU currently leads the NCAA in steals per game with just over 13 and turnovers forced, as well leading the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio and offensive rebounds.
Huggins’ team this year plays a tough, full-court press defense and is forcing 22.6 turnovers per game through 15 games.
Huggins and the Mountaineers will look to continue this discipline and defense as Big 12 play heats up, starting with their January 10 game against the No. 17 Iowa State.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.