Mountaineers announce preseason training today
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It is probably appropriate that Bob huggins starts his 15e season at the University of West Virginia with 15 scholarship basketball players – two more than normal.
Of course, nothing has been normal for a year and a half because of the coronavirus, which has allowed Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien the possibility of having senior season rehearsals.
Huggins welcomes eight players in all from last season’s 19-10 squad who finished 13e in the AP poll before retiring in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Syracuse.
Two players who could have returned this year didn’t – goaltender Deuce McBride, taken in the second round of the NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, and forward Derek culver, which slipped through the project.
Of the two, Huggins admits that Culver’s powerful inner presence will be sorely missed this season.
“We have guards,” Huggins said Monday afternoon on the eve of today’s first practice. “Derek is going to be missed. Derek could get hard rebounds. Derek was big and strong and people couldn’t move him. He could move whoever he wanted, and he was getting big rebounds at the end of games.”
This year, no one can guess who Huggins will rely on to score points near the basket, Huggins included.
First year Redshirt Isaiah Cottrell Certainly has the height of 6ft 10in, 245 pounds, but his skills are more suited to the perimeter. If Huggins chooses to go for a four-out attacking system this year and plays against Cottrell, it could actually turn into five strikeouts because Cottrell shoots the ball so well from the outside.
“It would open up some lanes of traffic for us,” Huggins admitted.
West Virginia’s other options in the paint include Osabuohien, by far the team’s best defenseman and passer among the greats, transfer DePaul Pauly Paulicap, Florida International pull-blocker Dimon Carrigan, second year Seny N’diaye or promising true freshman James okonkwo, who impressed during the preseason open gym sessions.
Huggins said the original plan was to redshirt Okonkwo, as he did Jalen Bridges a few years ago, but it is not sure that this is an option this year. Okonkwo is from England and performed in the United States last year at Beckley Prep in Beckley, West Virginia, although he saw little action due to a broken finger and COVID-19 .
“He’s playing really well, and he’s by far the fastest guy on the pitch, and he gets a lot of balls,” Huggins noted. “We were in a pretty good position to bring him in and put him in a red shirt, but now I’m not sure if I will see him play any more.”
Carrigan placed second in the US Conference in blocked shots with 60 last year at Florida International and Huggins is hoping that can translate into a Big 12 game, while Paulicap has turned out to be more of a scorer and rebounder at DePaul last year averaging 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds against Concours Grand Est.
Paulicap began his college career in Manhattan.
Cottrell has a lot of advantages as a former ESPN 100 prospect, but he suffered an Achilles tendon tear during the Northeast victory on December 29. Huggins said Cottrell had done a great job of rehab since then and would be ready to go later. today.
“In terms of his ability to run and jump, (the injury) didn’t affect him at all,” Huggins said.
The veteran coach believes Cottrell could be the team’s third-best away shooter after Sherman and Sean mcneil, which says a lot considering the second year Jalen Bridges will occupy one of the wing positions.
Sherman and McNeil, each of whom has toyed with the idea of making the NBA Draft, return to give West Virginia a pair of explosive perimeter markers. McNeil lost 24 to Kansas, including 20 in the first half, and he scored 23 in WVU’s NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse. He led the team with 69 3-pointers and was fourth with an average of 12.2 points per game.
Sherman finished third with an average score of 13.4 points per game and is quite capable of increasing that total significantly in 2022. He produced a career-high 26 against National Champion Baylor and had 21 double-digit games in 2021.
Bridges, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound wing from the neighboring Fairmont, is another guy who can fill it in from the perimeter.
“As soon as these guys see a crack, they’re going to pull it – and I want them to pull it,” Huggins said.
West Virginia probably doesn’t have a traditional point guard this year. Senior Kedrian johnson is back, and the Mountaineers used McBride’s purse to sign the Old Dominion transfer Malik Curry, a second pick for the All-Conference USA team who averaged 15.7 points per game, the team’s best in 2021.
Both are more slasher types who put the ball on the ground with the intention of hitting the rim. Curry is also left-handed which can help him score near the basket. The question is, will he be able to do this consistently in the Big 12?
“Playing Old Dominion is very different from the people we line up and play on a daily basis,” Huggins admitted. “He’s got really good foot speed, and he shoots better than he pulled when he first got here.”
Huggins recruited two strong Ohio high school goaltenders in 6-foot-3 Kobe Johnson of Canton McKinley High, Buckeye State Division I Player of the Year and 6 foot 1 Seth wilson by Lorain High.
According to Huggins, Wilson is much better with the ball right now, while Johnson is much stronger with the ball than he expected.
“He can have as good ball safety as anyone on our team, and he passes it well,” Huggins said of Johnson. “His body (210 pounds) and the physique he can bring to the goalkeeper position is by far the best we have as goaltenders in terms of physique and strength with the ball.”
The other guys on this year’s 15-player roster looking to get into the mix are 6-foot-7 second-year forwards. Taj Thweatt and true 6-foot-7-inch freshman forward Jamel king by Paul Bryant High in Uniontown, Alabama.
Ask Huggins to give you his top eight or ten players and he has no idea.
“I couldn’t choose them at the moment,” he admitted. “We have a lot of guys. The last time I was 15 (stock players) I was at Walsh College. Obviously the guys are going to want to play, and I don’t think we’re going to have attitude issues because that they’re good guys, but we’ll have guys sitting there who want to get into the game. “
Huggins’ No.1 concern today until the season opener against Oakland on Nov. 9 will be identifying a reliable scorer near the basket.
“We just don’t have a big, strong guy right now that we can throw the ball to close, but hopefully we can spend enough time with them to get them to the point where we can score a bit there. -in it, ”Huggins explained. “They’re going to be isolated because (the naysayers) don’t leave Taz, they don’t leave Sean and they don’t leave JB
“It’s going to be one on one over there.”
West Virginia will have a closed scrum against another Division I program before facing Akron in the charity exhibition match at WVU Coliseum on Friday, October 29 to benefit the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund for Cancer Research.
Huggins said Akron’s exposure would be of tremendous benefit to his young players.
“I don’t think half of our squad has played in front of the crowd we’re going to play in front of,” he said. “I hope these young guys can get a taste of what’s going to happen to them. This part is really good.”
West Virginia’s 2021-22 home slate also includes a few traditional rivals from the East, Pitt and Connecticut.
“Having Pitt and Connecticut at home, these are two teams we’ve played with over the years and our fan base will relate to them very well,” Huggins said. “That’s the part that’s pretty exciting. We’ve got 14,000 in the old barn over there, and it’s pretty hard to fight.”
Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased from the Mountaineer Box Office by calling 1-800-WVU GAME or logging into WVUGAME.com.