Haley Brings Variety of Assets To Mountaineer Basketball
The Mountaineer men’s basketball team’s backcourt got a lot longer recently with the addition of 6-foot-8 guard Jermaine Haley, who signed a Letter of Intent with WVU last week.
A native of Vancouver, Canada, Haley has traveled a twisting road since leaving British Columbia. A year in prep school at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas earned him plenty of attention from U.S. colleges. He had offers from Louisville, Illinois, Gonzaga and Maryland coming out of SCA, but he ultimately landed at New Mexico State. After redshirting his first year in Las Cruces, he worked his way into the rotation and ultimately started 15 games as a redshirt freshman for the Aggies, where he averaged 3.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game.
But despite such playing time, he decided to leave NMSU after the 2016-17 season. He was looking for another major college home, but choose to use the junior college ranks as a springboard back to D-I.
He ended up at Odessa (Texas) College, where he averaged 10.2 points, 5.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 33 games this past season.
“Going to junior college, I didn’t know what to expect,” noted Haley, who has 215 pounds stretched out over his 6-foot-8 frame. “But Coach (Tra Arnold) gave me the keys and let me find my game again. I think going to junior college was the best decision I ever made.”
At New Mexico State, Haley had been used mainly as wing. But despite having the size of a forward, he had spent most of his basketball career at the point guard position.
“When I first started playing basketball, I loved to pass the ball,” he explained. “So, even though I was bigger, I played a lot of point guard. I’m a pass-first and pass-second point guard. With my size, I can also defend a lot of different spots on the floor, but offensively, I feel I’m best with the ball in my hands distributing it to my teammates.”
Shortly after Haley arrived at Odessa last fall, West Virginia jumped in to the recruiting mix.
“They had been communicating with me the whole season,” said Haley of WVU’s coaches. “So when it came time to starting taking my visits, West Virginia was pretty much number one. It was kind of a no-brainer to me. They had pretty much everything I was looking for, and Coach (Bob) Huggins told me a lot of things I really liked.”
Huggins especially liked the fact that Haley is regarded as a strong defender. While at Odessa, he was the Western Junior College Athletic Conference co-defensive player of the year.
“Defense wasn’t always my favorite part of the game,” Haley admitted. “But once I got to the collegiate level, I realized I could impact the game with my defense. Other than my passing, I think my defense is now the strongest part of my game.”
And he’s experienced in the full-court press.
“I ran a similar defense my freshman year,” Haley noted when asked about “Press Virginia.” “It’s very effective. It speeds things up and helps you score on the offensive end. I think it’s an exciting way to play, and it suits my style of play the best.
“I like the style of play at West Virginia. Me being a big guard, they needed another long wing to get out and defend. I’m really excited about that.”
While Haley will be asked to improve his outside shooting once he arrives at WVU this summer – he made just 11-of-41 three-point attempts at Odessa – his passing skills will be a big part of what he brings to West Virginia’s offense. He had 16 games with six or more assists this past season, including a career-high 10 assists against Central Arizona.
“I think as the years go on, the more experience I get, the better I’ll become,” noted Haley. “I know that Coach Huggins really knows what he’s doing. He and his staff are great, and they’ll get me better as time goes along.”
Haley is slated to enroll at WVU in June, and he’s excited to get his Mountaineer career up and running.
“I know West Virginia is a team that works hard and plays hard and likes to win,” he stated. “I know Coach likes to win, too, and that’s what I want as well. I want to win and go deep into the (NCAA) Tournament.”