WVU Basketball Ready To Adjust On The Fly
Sometimes you have to adjust.
The best coaches do that well, and Bob Huggins certainly is among the best coaches out there.
Meeting with the media a day before the 2017-18 basketball season starts, Huggins went over his team and he understands it’s not how he had it penciled in as they walked of the court after losing to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 last March.
It’s been a case of vanishing players … first Elijah Macon to the pros, then Esa Ahmad to a suspension for half the year, then top recruit Derek Culver didn’t qualify and finally Brandon Knapper, a slick point guard recruit, suffered a knee injury.
Macon’s desertion to play professionally in Hungary was in the works for some time, Huggins said.
“He needed to go make some money,” Huggins said . “It was time. I was afraid if he was here too long and he got a little long in the tooth what it would do to his market value. It was much better now than it would have been a year from now.”
The plan was for Culver, a top recruit, would move into his spot and play inside with Sagaba Konate. That’s now changed, as has much of everything about the team, almost to the point that Huggins isn’t even sure if it will be “Press Virginia.”
See, the Mountaineers aren’t as deep as they were and Nathan Adrian is gone at the point of the press, and while Lamont West can probably fill that role as can, the coach has to see how things fall into place.
“We may be better served doing something else,” Huggins said. “But I like the way we’re playing. Our guys like the way we’re playing. We’re going to keep doing it, but it may not be all 40 minutes. But it may be, too.”
Of course, there has to be some juggling done to fill Ahmad’s spot for 16 games, but Huggins believes he has players to fill the void. It begins with West, now a sophomore and a different kind of player with a deadly 3-point
Huggins says junior college transfers D’Angelo Hunter and Wesley Harris and freshman Teddy Allen will see time, as will Beetle Bolden and Logan Routt.
As for Ahmad, how does Huggins keep him geared up for his return at a crucial point in the season, probably coming sometime in early January.
“To this point, he’s been really good, but it’s going to be hard,” Huggins said. “It’s going to be hard on him. It’s going to be hard to come in and practice that hard every day knowing he doesn’t have a game on Saturday. But I think he understands what’s at stake for him. I think he understands how hard he’s going to have to push himself.”
Of course, at the head of the class is Jevon Carter, who Huggins believes is the best “on-ball defender in college basketball” and who is looking for a big time season teamed with Daxter Miles in the backcourt.
Huggins said that Carter never intended to go to the NBA this year when he declared for the draft, but took an intelligent approach to his future.
“First of all, he didn’t go through the draft process,” Huggins said. “His whole deal was, ‘I can go get a workout in and find out what they’re asking you to do, and I’ll be prepared for it next year.’ There was never one second J.C. thought about leaving. It was an opportunity to find out what he needed to work on, what he needed to be able to get to that next level, and I think that’s a pretty smart thing.”
The result, Huggins said, is that Carter is playing “with supreme confidence right now.”