The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va., Justin Jackson column
Nov 11, 2012 (Menafn - The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --IN DOWNTOWN NEW YORK CITY, across the street from the Affina Manhattan, sits Harrington's Bar & Grill, a place where the good times roll in like relatives on graduation day.
Walk 10 minutes down the street one way and you are in the middle of Times Square. Walk five minutes in the other direction, you hit Madison Square Garden.
In between are about 7 million people who would run you over without a second thought if it meant making it to Penn Station on time.
That's New York. Well, minus the smell of dirty water hot dogs in the air, the taste of a good bagel and the sound of a million car horns blaring at once.
In 2010, the WVU men's basketball team fit the city like a glove. That starting five from the greater New York metro area -- Da'Sean Butler , Wellington Smith , Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks -- was more Rucker Park than Marilla Park; more L train than PRT.
And when they guided the Mountaineers to the Big East tournament championship, people ran with it.
WVU has moved on to the Big 12 Conference, where the landscape is a little different. The only Manhattan the Mountaineers will see during conference play this season is the one in Kansas. Just a tad different.
The Mountaineers' recruiting from here on out will be a little different, too.
That's where assistant coach Erik Martin comes in. Now some would say he has an easier job than the guy who sells chalk to elementary schools. Among other responsibilities, Martin recruits the state of Ohio ... for Bob Huggins , the man who helped put the state back on the basketball map during his 16 seasons at Cincinnati.
He's not complaining, either.
"Honestly, it's not difficult going into any state to recruit for Huggs," Martin said. "After all he did at Cincinnati and after taking West Virginia to a Final Four, you can get your foot into just about any door."
Martin said those doors will be opening in some different areas, as WVU gets itself more in tune with the Big 12.
"I don't want to say we're going to abandon New York, because we're not," Martin said. "But, I think we are shifting more toward the middle of the country. When we were in the Big East, recruiting New York just seemed right for us, but we're not in the Big East any more."
Now Ohio seems to be just as much in play as New York/New Jersey once was. Four-star forward Devin Williams (Cincinnati) recently committed, and after attending a prep school in New Hampshire this season, four-star forward Elijah Macon (Columbus) is also expected to join WVU next season.
Both are nationally ranked by Rivals.com and ESPN.
"There are players in the state of Ohio, more than people realize," said Martin, who is not permitted by the NCAA to speak about individual recruits. "It's not just a football state. There are some very good players, and from Morgantown, you're only talking about a three- or fourhour drive to most places in Ohio. That's pretty good for families."
What may be more impressive is, Martin and Huggins were able to pluck these two recruits from the backyard of Ohio State, where men's basketball coach Thad Matta is known as sort of a recruiting guru.
"They are Ohio State, and there is always the possibility we may not get the guy we want from Ohio," Martin said. "A lot of kids from the Cincinnati area don't go to Ohio State. I don't know why, but it just seems like that's the way it is."
Still, chances are there may never come a day when the state of Ohio gives WVU five starters in one season, like the greater New York metro area once did.
Truth be told, that may never happen again from any area for the Mountaineers.
There are new options opening up for WVU, though.
"We need to get into Texas, like now," Martin said. "We need to jump in there two-feet first. It's so big and there are so many players.
"We recruited Keaton (Miles), and what we've found is that Texas kids don't mind getting away from home, as long as it's the right fit."
JUSTIN JACKSON is a sports reporter for The Dominion Post. Write to him at email@example.com.
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