An NBA Draft Evaluation Unlike Any Other For Huggins, Tshiebwe
West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins spent 35 minutes Monday answering questions from a media assemblage checking in through a Zoom video conference.
“As they say, I have people,” Huggins chuckled when asked about logging into Zoom. “Jenna (Huggins, his daughter) did this for me today. I don’t have a clue. I can barely turn this (computer) on. I don’t want to learn either; that’s the bad thing.”
A great deal of the rest of the video conference was spent discussing WVU’s sophomore-to-be Oscar Tshiebwe, who has submitted the paperwork necessary to get an evaluation from NBA general managers and scouts in regard to his draft stock.
Other Mountaineer men’s basketball underclassmen in past years have also their submitted names for evaluations by the NBA, including most recently Sagaba Konate, Jevon Carter and Devin Williams. Some stayed in the draft, like Konate and Williams, only to go unselected, while Carter returned to WVU for his senior season. He improved his NBA stock, as he wound up being selected with the second pick in the second round in 2018.
But all those past evaluations and all those past drafts were much different than this year, as so much of the world is currently affected by the COVID-19 virus.
“I’ve never really had anyone go through what Oscar is going to go through, because there is really nothing to go through,” said Huggins, who has previously had 19 of his players drafted by the NBA in his 38 years as a college head coach. “They’re not going to have a Combine, and they’re not going to bring people in (for workouts), which were two major things the NBA wanted to do in the past. That allowed them to see people in real time, to see how they move and how they move their feet, see how tall they actually are and see how fast they actually run. They’re not going to be able to do any of that.
“They really can have no contact with these guys until the draft. I think this just opens things up to any wanna-be agent/runner who track these guys down.”
The date of this year’s NBA draft is also in question. It was originally slated for June 25 but many expect it will be pushed back until at least August.
“I don’t have any idea what they are going to do. I’m not sure they have any idea what they are going to do,” said Huggins of the NBA draft and this year’s abnormal process of evaluation. “My focus is to make sure our guy makes the right decision, and quite frankly, we’ve had guys who have gotten the wrong people in their ears, and they’ve made terrible decisions. Those decisions cost them very lucrative careers, because they listened to someone who cared more what they were going to get out of it rather than what the player was going to get out of it.
“That’s always what we try to guard against,” he added. “I don’t know what the NBA is going to be able to do. I know with the pandemic that they are not going to be able to bring guys in (for workouts) and won’t be able to have a Combine. I think they are going to be like everyone else and everything is going to be left to film.”
Certainly Tshiebwe had a strong freshman season this past year. The native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who graduated high school from Kennedy Catholic (Pa.), started all 31 games in 2019-20 and led WVU in both scoring (11.1 points per game) and rebounding (9.2 per game). He amassed 10 double-doubles on the year and was named to the all-Big 12 second team and was a unanimous selection to the all-Big 12 freshman team.
Getting an NBA evaluation is a no-harm proposition, as a college underclassman can get a feel for his draft stock and still pull back out and return to college without any impact on his eligibility.
That remains true, but the ability to work prospects out this year has changed.
“What everyone is having a hard time grasping is that there really is no exploratory,” said Huggins. “We will send in, like we did for Oscar, the paperwork to the NBA. They will then pool a group of general managers, who will come up with a hypothetical deal of if they remained in the draft, where they would be drafted. It has nothing to do with ‘they need to work on this or work on that,’ which is what they got from the Combine. That to me was the strength of the Combine in that they were around NBA people who said, ‘Son, you better work on your left hand a little bit because they are going to sit on your right hand and you’ll have no place to go,’ or ‘You had better work on your back-to-the-basket move,’ or ‘pick-and-roll situations’ or things that are applicable to them having success or not having success.
“What we have now is they are going to say, ‘Hey, you might be the 18th pick of the draft,’ and I’m just throwing that out. What they aren’t saying is there may be seven Europeans who are coming over that only the NBA people know about and that may drop you down seven more spots or 10 more spots.
“This draft you have less an idea of where you may be drafted than any draft we’ve had in a long time.
“This is a different deal, and it’s uncharted waters.”
Tshiebwe is still awaiting word from the NBA G.Ms.
“We haven’t gotten (the evaluation) back yet,” stated Huggins. “We want him to make the best, most informed decision that he can possibly make.”
West Virginia finished with a 21-10 record in this past virus-shortened season. The team was just getting ready to begin the Big 12 Tournament and also was a lock for the NCAA Tournament when both those events were suddenly cancelled.
The Mountaineers return eight of their top 10 leading scorers from last year, including Tshiebwe, junior forward Derek Culver (10.4 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game), sophomore guard Deuce McBride (9.5 points, 1.8 assists), junior forward Emmitt Matthews (6.3 points, 3.6 assists), junior guard Sean McNeal (5.5 points, 33.0 three-point percentage), senior guard Taz Sherman (5.3 points, 33.3 three-point percentage), junior guard Jordan McCabe (3.1 points, 1.7 assists) and senior forward Gabe Osabuohien (3.1 points, 4.1 rebounds).
WVU loses three seniors to graduation – guard Jermaine Haley (8.9 points, 1.9 assists), guard Chase Harler (4.4 points, 1.1 rebounds) and forward Logan Routt (1.3 points, 1.5 rebounds – and also sophomore guard Brandon Knapper (2.6 points, 0.7 assists) is transferring to Eastern Kentucky.
Huggins is excited about the experience and talent he has coming back for the 2020-21 campaign. Obviously that outlook would change if Tshiebwe decided not to return to West Virginia, but the Mountaineers’ veteran coach doesn’t seemed concerned about that possibility.
“I fully expect we’re not going to have to worry about it,” said Huggins of having to build a team without Tshiebwe next year. “I feel very confident that Oscar will make an intelligent decision, as will Derek if that is the case. I haven’t heard anything whatsoever that Derek has any interest in putting his name in the draft.”
Huggins is worried about developing next year’s squad.
As for Zoom video conferencing, he’s got people for that.
“If I learn how to do this, shoot me,” WVU’s coach said in his normal dry manner.