Bob Huggins has been the head coach at West Virginia for 13 years. Before then, he spent 16 seasons at Cincinnati and a year at Kansas State before coming to Morgantown. In three decades on the sidelines, Huggins has coached the likes of Kenyon Martin, Nick Van Exel, Danny Fortson and Da’Sean Butler.
Huggins has 291 wins at WVU and is this week’s guest on the March Madness 365 podcast. He and Andy Katz broke down past players across 10 different categories, looking for each player’s strongest attribute or irreplaceable intangibles.
We often break down a coach’s picks into 10 different players (see Roy Williams’ picks here, for example) . But in this case, Kenyon Martin was so dominant — and well regarded by Huggins — that he’s going to make up 40 percent of this hypothetical dream player.
Here’s who made the cut on Huggins’ list:
The Athletic Wonder, Coach, Captain and Glue Guy — Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati forward/center, 1996-2000)
Kenyon Martin had quickness, bounce and poise. He could keep a freshmen backcourt composed in crunch time or study film so thoroughly that he knew when the opponent was out of position for an offensive set. Huggins selected Martin for four categories of 10, and joked that he could’ve been the pick for as many as nine.
In some ways, Martin was a dream player at Cincinnati. He won the Wooden and Naismith Award in 2000, leading the Bearcats to a 28-2 start and a 12-week stay at No. 1 in the polls. His versatility on the court extended to both ends of the floor. Martin averaged 11 points, 7.5 rebounds 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.5 blocks per game, finishing his career as the program’s leader in field goal percentage (.586) and blocks (292).
“To have a 6’9 guy run the way he could run, jump the way he could jump, move his feet way he could move his feet and have an incredible basketball IQ, I think Kenyon stands out,” Huggins said.
The Quarterback — Nick Van Exel (Cincinnati guard, 1991-93)
Nick Van Exel checks in as Huggins’ quarterback, a leader capable of making plays with his vision and passing. Van Exel’s average of 3.6 assists per game may not be gaudy, but his versatility as a scoring guard was what made him dangerous. He led Cincinnati to back-to-back conference championships and a Final Four appearance in 1992. The following year, Van Exel’s production jumped to over 18 points per game and 4.5 assists per game as he was named a Wooden Award finalist and earned third team All-America honors.
“Nick was terrific. He had a great way with people, his teammates loved him and he was, as we all know, extremely talented,” Huggins told Katz.
The Clutch Gene — Da’Sean Butler (West Virginia forward, 2006-10)
Need a crunch-time basket or a game-sealing shot? Look no further than Da’Sean Butler. In just his senior year, Butler drained seven game-winners for West Virginia. Two of them came during the Big East tournament — the Mountaineers’ only conference tournament title before moving to the Big 12. Butler didn’t stop there, leading WVU to the 2010 Final Four after scoring 18 points in the Regional Final against a Kentucky team that featured next-level stars in John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
“Da’Sean Butler hit seven game-winning shots in 2010 on the way to the Final Four. Without a doubt, Da’Sean would be No. 1,” Huggins said.
The Shooter — Tony Bobbitt (Cincinnati guard, 2002-04)
Tony Bobbitt played two seasons at Cincinnati, starting once and never averaging more than 22 minutes per game. Even in limited action, Bobbitt made his presence felt on the floor. During the 2003-04 season, Bobbitt would be considered a knockdown shooter given the evolution of the 3-point line. He buried 85 shots from beyond the arc, converting at a 40 percent clip.
“Tony could really shoot it. Cartier Martin could really shoot it. Steve Logan could obviously really shoot it. I think it’s hard to separate those,” Huggins said.
The Bucket Getter — Danny Fortson (Cincinnati forward, 1994-97)
Just how good a scorer was Danny Fortson? Had he come back to Cincinnati for a fourth season, he may have been able to make a run at the Bearcats’ program scoring record. Some guy named Oscar Robertson holds it. Fortson earns the nod as Huggins’ bucket getter after three seasons of scoring at least 15 points per game and two of at least 20 or more. And it wasn’t just volume scoring either. Fortson’s 6-foot-7, 260-pound frame made him a mismatch on the block and he knew how to use that to his advantage.
“It’s hard to argue against Danny Fortson,” Huggins told Katz. “Danny shot in the mid 60 percent for pretty much for his career. So when you threw it in there, you pretty much knew something good was going to happen.”
The Lockdown Defender — Jevon Carter (West Virginia guard, 2014-18)
Driving on Kenyon Martin was usually unsuccessful when he roamed the paint at Cincinnati. But some teams struggled to get the ball over halfcourt when Jevon Carter played at West Virginia.
Carter was a two-time National Defensive Player of the Year. During those seasons, WVU held opponents to an average of 68.2 points per game while forcing an average of 18.25 turnovers. Carter proved to be an ideal fit for the Mountaineers’ ‘Press Virginia’ moniker, averaging more than 1.5 steals per game all four seasons while the average surged to 2.5 and 3.0 as an upperclassman.
“JC was a terrific on-ball defender. Great hands, set records everywhere for steals,” Huggins said of Carter.
The Dirty Worker — Devin Williams (West Virginia forward, 2013-16)
When it comes to crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, Bob Huggins picked Devin Williams to get the board. Over three seasons in Morgantown, Williams registered 11.1 points and 8.3 rebounds, increasing his per-game averages each year.
Williams recorded 33 double-doubles at WVU, developing as a rebounder on both ends. He pulled down at least 2.5 offensive rebounds per game in all three seasons.
“Had Devin stayed his senior year, he would’ve been one of four guys in the history of West Virginia basketball to score over 1000 points and get over 1000 rebounds. He just got every big rebound for us,” Huggins said of Williams.