Bolden, Ahmad Different Leaders For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — That West Virginia won its fourth straight game, all of them with 88 or more points scored, wasn’t exactly what you’d call a “stop the presses” kind of thing for the opponent was Youngstown State, a team that does not play the same caliber of basketball as do the Mountaineers.
What’s more, in a 106-72 victory, you tend to look more for something that comes out of it just than that game that goes in the win column.
That drew the eye to the box score that showed six Mountaineers in double figures, led by Esa Ahmad and Beetle Bolden with an identical total of 15 points each.
What better day then to look into the two players who, along with Sagaba Konate, have possession of this team?
They certainly are not similar, Bolden 6-foot, maybe, and Ahmad, 6-8. Bolden outgoing, a ball of fire; Ahmad, more reserved, playing a far more controlled game.
But make no doubt, if the Mountaineers are to have a successful season, it will come off of the play and leadership of Bolden and Ahmad.
Bolden is a point guard who shoots, an outside shooter who lit Youngstown up early and made 6 of 8 shots and used only 18 minutes to put together his 15 points and five assists. Ahmad is more of an inside force, a rebounder and scorer.
As different as their personalities are, as different as their physiques are, as different as their games are, they have one characteristic that binds them.
It may show more on Bolden, but their coach, Bob Huggins, sees it in both of them.
“When Bolden hurt his elbow this year, he was crushed,” Huggins said. “He really wants to play and was an emotional mess. Esa may not show it as much, but he wants to play, too.”
It’s understandable why Bolden is so driven and why being out this year bothered him so much. See, his first year here, he had a knee injury and was forced to redshirt.
That year was frustrating to him.
“It was hard, watching my teammates and not being able to go out there and contribute,” he said. “Mentally, I was down. I was a frustrated kid.”
He had to grow into his role, just as Ahmad has, improving every year.
They were drawn together. In fact, a strange twist of fate had made them a threesome because back in high school, in the Cincinnati area, Bolden and Lamont West were AAU teammates and often played against Ahmad, who was playing on northern Ohio teams.
They often talk to each other about their journey, about the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows and about how its their turn now to take over the team.
They know how each other thinks, what they want out of the game, out of life.
And Huggins admits that he is pushing them to adopt the leadership role.
“We’re trying to make it their team,” he said.
Much, certainly is on them, for each wants to win here, wants to move into professional basketball, wants to make a living out of it.
For Bolden, he has to do double duty for he is playing the point guard but he also must score, which he boldly proclaims is what he was born to do.
“I am a natural-born scorer,” he said.
It’s becoming obvious that he holds the key to the Mountaineers, as Youngstown State head coach Jerrod Calhoun noted after the game. Calhoun, of course, is a former Huggins assistant and was head coach at Fairmont State.
“Beetle is their guy,” Calhoun said. “I said something to him at the end there. I root for these guys. He has to be the leader.
“I spent a little time with Huggs last night and I think he has to be their guy. Esa’s a great player, he’s just quiet on the court. I think Beetle has to be the voice for this team, if he can get it going.”