Ebanks expected to play Thursday

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- West Virginia Mountaineers sophomore forward Devin Ebanks is expected to make his season debut Thursday against Long Beach State in the opening round of the 76 Classic after sitting out the Mountaineers' first two games while dealing with personal issues.

Ebanks was at Wednesday's shootaround at the Anaheim Convention Center, going through drills and running offensive plays. Ebanks then stayed after the shootaround to work on some individual shooting.

West Virginia's coaching staff has been quiet regarding Ebanks' absence. Ebanks wasn't on the bench for the Mountaineers' season-opening win over Loyola of Maryland on Nov. 15 but did sit on the bench for Tuesday night's win over The Citadel in nearby Charleston. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Ebanks made his first appearance in practice at Tuesday's shootaround prior to The Citadel game.

Huggins reiterated again Wednesday that this was a private matter for Ebanks.

"If this was your kid, would you want me standing up at the top of my lungs saying what's going on?' No you wouldn't," Huggins said. "These are my kids. He's fine. He's fine. He'll be fine. I've just got to figure out when to get him in. I don't know what we're going to do."

Huggins started a front line of senior forward Da'Sean Butler, senior Wellington Smith and sophomore Kevin Jones. Butler, a potential all-Big East first-team player, is averaging 17.5 points in the first two games, while Jones is averaging a dozen points and grabbing 7.5 boards. Smith is averaging 3.5 points and five rebounds in the first two games.

"I don't know which one to take out," Huggins said. "They've all been pretty good."

Ebanks had scored in 12 of his last 13 games last season. He was billed as one of the top forwards in the country, tabbed as a first-team preseason all-American by The Sporting News and on the preseason watch list for the Naismith and Wooden Awards.

The Long Island, N.Y., native is also being billed as a potential lottery pick in the 2010 NBA draft if he decides to declare early. Ebanks started 34 games last season as a freshman for the Mountaineers, averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. He averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in three Big East tournament games, including grabbing a career-high 18 boards against Notre Dame.

Ebanks had 20 double-figure scoring games and 12 double-figure rebounding games as a freshman.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.