MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Wednesday night was a disappointing one for West Virginia men’s basketball. Just over an hour before Bob Huggins’ squad fell in a heartbreaker to Baylor, it had learned that transfer guard Jose Perez will not appear for the Mountaineers this season.
The NCAA’s decision to deny WVU’s appeal puzzled the Mountaineers. Huggins, having spent the last several months with Perez, called the situation “extremely unfortunate” as he expressed his dissatisfaction with the long-awaited process.
“I don’t know the whys and the wherefores,” Huggins said. “I know this: you’re talking about a kid who was a very good student in high school, who gave nobody problems or issues, who was recommended by his high school coach, he is very well thought of in New York. Rick Pitino recommended him as a player and as a person. The truth of the matter is, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying it, [the NCAA doesn’t] know what the hell they’re doing. They do what they’re supposed to do so they don’t get sued. That’s a fact because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.”
The Bronx native’s case is a peculiar one. He left Manhattan College two weeks before the season tipped off after the Jaspers fired coach Steve Masiello on Oct. 25. Normally, when a coach is fired, players are allowed to move to a new program without any penalty, but typically, those firings occur at the end of the season, not weeks before it tips off.
Five days after Manhattan parted ways with Masiello, Perez picked the Mountaineers, but the NCAA didn’t officially deny his transfer waiver until Dec. 16.
WVU appealed that decision, but again, the NCAA denied that. No specific reason was given for either ruling, frustrating the Mountaineers and their fanbase.
“I’ve been on virtually every committee there is and I still don’t understand,” Huggins said. “I know for a fact that there are university presidents, university athletic directors that don’t understand what they’re doing or agree with it, but what are you going to do? They are the boss.”
Perez has not been able to practice with the team since enrolling in November. He has been on the bench supporting his teammates, and according to Huggins, he has participated on WVU’s scout team.
The 6-foot-5 forward was especially despondent after the ruling.
“Literally broken into pieces,” Perez tweeted.
For WVU, the silver lining in the ruling came as an extra year of eligibility for Perez. That was a relief for the Mountaineers, who expected to have Perez for just one season.
Huggins had not yet spoken with Perez about his future on Wednesday night, but he indicated that he would stick around.
“I think it would certainly be in his best interest, but I don’t know. I know he knows that the people at this university have done everything humanly possible to help him, and he knows that and he has a great appreciation for that,” Huggins said. “Now, where do you go from there? I don’t know. I don’t know, I mean, you put yourself in those shoes, would you be upset? Of course….In this world, you’re going to have, or at least try to have, I don’t know how many people say, ‘Hey man, they didn’t take care of you, you come over, we’ll take care of you, we’ll make sure.’ That’s life, that’s the way things work in today’s world, I just don’t want to be a part…of that part of it.”
Luckily for him, Perez indicated that he might be inclined to spend that extra year in Morgantown.
“Morgantown one more year wouldn’t hurt?” he tweeted.