Bob Huggins thinks his team is good to go and isn't that what matters?
After an off-season of departures and upheaval, West Virginia has opened practice and set course on opening the 2017 basketball campaign with a number of new faces and spots to fill.
Aside from those players graduating, the Mountaineers lost the services of Elijah Macon, who elected to forego his senior season, and junior Esa Ahmad, who will sit out half the season. If that wasn’t enough, freshman guard Brandon Knapper will be out for 4-6 months with a knee injury while fellow newcomer Derek Culver failed to qualify and will spend this season at a prep school.
But even considering all of that, Huggins believes his team is ready for what he refers to as a difficult non-conference slate that will lead into another grueling Big 12 schedule.
“I think our guys are excited. They’ve been here all summer, worked hard, worked hard in the weight room and they’ve been in the gym a bunch,” he said.
With several players not available for the opening of the season, West Virginia is going to have to rely on a number of new faces with junior college transfers Wesley Harris and D’Angelo Hunter as well as true freshman Teddy Allen being asked to step up and provide minutes. Hunter provides a 6-foot-6 wing that brings not only athleticism to the table but can make shots, while Harris is much of the same.
Allen has shown the ability to score the basketball but has some work to do on the other end.
“Teddy finds ways to score, unfortunately so does his man which is something we have to fix,” he said.
West Virginia also provided the 13th scholarship to redshirt sophomore Logan Routt and Huggins expects that he will be seeing much more minutes this year than in the past. With the issues in the front court, Routt is going to be expected to fill that role some and he has transformed his body in order to put himself in position to do just that this coming winter.
“He’s much improved,” he said.
Huggins said that off the bench the team will need to count on James Bolden at the point guard spot with Knapper out and at this point it’s unclear when he will be able to return.
Even with the bigger lineup in place, Huggins said that the Mountaineers will continue to utilize the pressure style defense that has been a calling card for the program over the past several seasons. It might not be for an entire 40-minutes, but the head man didn’t rule it out yet either.
“We’re going to keep doing it,” he said.
Huggins also admitted that he could do a number of things with the lineup such as insert West at the four in order to spread teams out and make things easier for his senior guards.
At this point he is still in the process of sorting how just how the rotations will fall into place as well as who will fill the role at the top of the press, although sophomores Lamont West and Maciej Bender both have experience there. Harris is another long option that could fill that role.
“I don’t know how much of them are going to play until we start playing,” he said.
Huggins also spoke very highly on his lead guard senior Jevon Carter saying that as of now he is playing with a supreme amount of confidence. The game has slowed down and he continues to put in effort both in the gym and watching tape in order to take that next step.
“He’s been that way all along,” Huggins said.
--Ahmad is set to miss the first 16 games of the year and Huggins said that the Ohio native has been “really good,” to date. It’s going to be a difficult process with him practicing and putting in effort without getting to play in half of the games this year, but he understands what’s at stake for him and his future.
--On the topic of Macon, Huggins said that he supported the move to declare for the draft and to start making money because of his age. Macon spent a year away from the program redshirting even after attending prep school and his stock was as high as it was going to be regardless if he played another year.