Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Huffman, Kent State on way up

They overcame many doubters along the way

The Associated Press

Kent's Trevor Huffman scored 27 points in the MAC final against Miami Saturday.
| ZOOM |
        CLEVELAND — Trevor Huffman heard all the excuses. Too small. Too slow. Too this, too that. As a high school senior, Huffman couldn't convince any Division I program to give him a scholarship. “So I kept trying,” Huffman said. “I sent out film to everybody.”

        Central Michigan watched and said, no thanks. So did Eastern and Western. The big boys in Ann Arbor and East Lansing never gave the scrawny kid from Petoskey, Mich., much of a look.

        “It's four hours out of civilization,” Huffman said of his hometown. “Why go all the way up there when you can find the same player in inner-city Detroit?”

        Huffman finally got Kent State to believe. This week, the 6-foot-1 junior guard is leading the Golden Flashes into the NCAA tournament.

        Kent (23-9), snubbed by the NCAA last year despite a 21-7 record, earned the Mid- American Conference's automatic berth and will play Indiana on Thursday in the West Region at San Diego.

        If the Hoosiers need extra game film to scout Huffman and the Golden Flashes, they might want to dig through some boxes back in Bloomington. There's a good chance Huffman sent them a video cassette or two.

        Once unknown and unwanted, Huffman is finally getting some deserved national attention.

        “He's phenomenal,” said Miami coach Charlie Coles said after Huffman scored 27 against the RedHawks in the MAC tournament final. “He has a move that I don't know if anybody in America can stop. I'm talking about that crossover dribble.”

        Huffman's crossover isn't quite on Allen Iverson's level, but it's close. He lulls an opponent into thinking he's not going anywhere, and in one sweeping motion — boom — he's gone.

        “He's deceiving,” said Miami guard Juby Johnson. “If you get on him to take away the jumper, he goes right by you.”

        Huffman said he perfected his move this summer while working with an Australian ballhandling coach.

        “It just kind of happened,” Huffman said.

        So did his arrival at Kent State. Before his freshman season, Huffman visited the school and got into a pickup game against some of the Golden Flashes. Realizing it was his chance to make an impression, Huffman showed every move he had.

        “He was unbelievable,” remembered guard Andrew Mitchell. “He was hitting shots all over the place. I think the only one he missed was when he tried to dunk over a couple guys.”

        After the game, Mitchell told Kent State coach Gary Waters to sign Huffman.

        “He can be THE big man,” Mitchell said.

        Huffman didn't play much as a freshman when Kent made its first trip to the NCAAs and lost a first-round game to Temple. Last season, he was one of the nation's top reserves, leading Kent with a 13.1 average.

        This season, he was arguably the league's best player while topping the Golden Flashes in scoring, free-throwing shooting and assists. And he didn't stop in the MAC tourney, scoring 66 points in three games to earn MVP honors.

        Added Mitchell: “He's sweet to watch, ain't he?”

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