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From Nigeria to Morgantown?

In his efforts to find the next potential stars of West Virginia basketball, coach Bob Huggins has traveled to points near and far this off-season. This past weekend, he traveled three hours Southwest of Morgantown to check in on several players who could very well fit that bill.
Huggins made the trip down to Huntington to see the latest stars at Rob Fulford’s loaded Huntington Prep (W.Va.) squad, and according to Fulford, he came away impressed.

WVU heard about Aniefiok before his arrival from Nigeria.

“It went good. He got a look at all of them,” Fulford said of his three sure-thing Division I prospects, juniors Negus Webster-Chan and Phillip Nolan, and senior Maurice Anifiok.

Aniefiok is a name our readers are familiar with. We first broke the news of his arrival from Nigeria earlier this fall, as well as WVU’s interest. The Mountaineers’ staff has known about him for some time and is prime position to sign the 6-foot-5 combo guard, whom Fulford believes is a potential top-10 guard in the Class of 2011.

Aniefiok didn’t disappoint, putting the defensive clamps on Webster-Chan, a native of Canada who is being recruited by Kentucky, among many other high-major programs.

“No question he can play for them. They love him. He and Negus went at it, and he locked up Negus on the spot, which is impressive because you’re talking about a big-time potential pro [in Webster-Chan]. Of course, Maurice is a little bit stronger and more developed at this point,” Fulford said.

Though WVU clearly has the inside track with Aniefiok, it may be some time before a commitment could be made. There have been numerous cases recently of African imports being caught up in the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse, especially those like Aniefiok who have built most of their respective high school transcripts in their native country.

That scenario is playing out right now in the case of 2010 Huntington Prep product Gorgui-Dieng. Dieng graduated with Huntington, signed with Louisville and received the necessary SAT score to qualify, but his African grades were later converted to American grades, lowering his overall grade average and causing him to be ruled ineligible. Fulford continues to lobby the NCAA for Dieng’s eligibility, but it’s very much in doubt, he said,

West Virginia also lost one of its 2010 signees – Mountain State Academy 7-footer David Nyarsuk, also a native of Africa – when he failed to qualify academically. He’s enrolled at Mountain State University and seems unlikely to ever become a Mountaineer.

“With Maurice, I think West Virginia, I think they’ll wait until they see how everything plays out,” Fulford said. “I think West Virginia wants to have the compliance people take a look and make sure it won’t take an act of congress to get him [eligible per NCAA standards].”

Canadian Webster-Chan is on Huggins' radar as well.

Webster-Chan, the most highly touted of Fulford’s players, is a 6-7 junior who can run the point or play on the wing. Though he’s already visited Kentucky and has interest from schools like Syracuse, Ohio State and Pittsburgh, he’s not close to making a commitment according to his coach.

“He’s wide open. He definitely fits the mold [of a major Division I prospect],” Fulford said.

And then there’s 6-10 junior Phillip Nolan, a native of the Milwaukee area.

“I think out of the three, Phillip’s going to be the one. He’s 6-10 and skilled, and can face up, shoot the ball and play the ‘three.’ I think everybody’s going to be looking at him,” he said.

Marquette, Baylor and Clemson have offered Nolan, while WVU, Texas and others have shown interest. It seems safe to say the ‘Eers will be involving themselves in his recruitment.
It also seems safe to say that Fulford’s perennially talented program is poised for a big season.

“We should be pretty good. We’re probably deeper than we’ve ever been,” he said. “As far as guards, we’re really deep.”

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