Harler An Important Part Of WVU’s Rotation
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Chase Harler was a not a huge part of West Virginia’s rotation last year as a freshman. The 6-foot-3 guard played in less than half of WVU’s games and averaged barely six minutes of action when he did get on the floor.
In all, he scored just 23 total points in 95 minutes.
Fastforward a year, and Harler’s role has increased significantly. He’s averaged more than 17 minutes of action through the Mountaineers’ first 10 games, and while he’s still not scoring it at the rate both he and his head coach, Bob Huggins, want (2.0 ppg) he’s still become an important reserve in WVU’s backcourt.
Though starting guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles did return from last season, their top backups, Tarick Phillip and Teyvon Myers, both graduated, and incoming freshman Brandon Knapper was lost to a preseason knee injury.
Thus Harler and fellow sophomore Beetle Bolden are the only guards capable of spelling Carter and Miles.
“I accept my role and try to do it to the best of my ability,” noted Harler. “I’d like to hit a few more shots, but the other guys are picking up the scoring. I just try to help whatever way necessary. I’m happy with what I’m doing and happy with my minutes.”
The sophomore from Moundsville, W.Va., admits that he’s still not shooting the ball as consistently as he’d like. He scored a career-high 14 points earlier this season against Long Beach State, spurred on by a 4-of-6 effort from three-point range. But he’s hit only 4-of-17 three-point shots in WVU’s other nine games, and he hasn’t scored a point in five contests this year.
He and Huggins have both cited Chase’s need to work on correcting some shot mechanics, as he has a habit of getting his thumb under the ball during jumpers.
“Every day I try to work on my shot,” Harler explained. “There are just some days where the ball won’t go in the rim and other days where I can’t miss. I’m just trying to be more consistent.”
As a team, West Virginia is trying to develop consistency as well.
“I think each game we’ve gotten better. If you look at where we’ve come since losing to Texas A&M (in the season opener), I think we’ve gotten better defensively,” noted Harler. “And I think we have a better flow on offense just because we’re getting used to playing together. I think overall we’ve gotten better each game.”
Last season West Virginia’s press forced its 19 non-conference opponents to turn the ball over 22.2 times per game. With just a few regular season non-conference games left this year, that number is down slightly, as WVU is currently forcing 20.6 turnovers a game. According to Harler, the younger Mountaineers are still learning the intricacies of the press.
“I think last year the press was better right from the beginning of the season because they had so many guys who had done it for two straight years,” explained the Wheeling Central Catholic grad. “This season we have a lot of new guys who pretty much are getting thrown out there. And then there are guys like myself, who were on the team last year but didn’t play a lot of minutes. So this is kind of like our first year also. But with each game, I think we’re getting better in the press.
“Game experience is so valuable. There are only so many things you can learn in practice. The coaches try to put us in situations in practice that will benefit us, but still, games are different.
“These next two games are good for us to continue to learn, and then hopefully we’ll be ready for conference play when that begins.”
West Virginia entertains Coppin State (0-11) on Wednesday night and then Fordham (4-6) at noon on Saturday before the Mountaineers begin Big 12 action with a two-game road swing at Oklahoma State on Friday, Dec. 29 and at Kansas State on Monday. Jan. 1.
Classes don’t start back up for the spring semester at WVU until Jan. 8, so for Huggins’ Mountaineers, there are few distractions outside of basketball for the new several weeks.
“It’s kind of nice this time of year where all we have is basketball; we don’t have to worry about classes or tests or things like that,” said Harler. “We practice from 11-2 and then we’re done with practice. We have more time to work on our individual game, so I like that aspect.”
There aren’t a lot of breaks for the hardwood, but there are a few.
“After the game on Saturday, we’ll have a break until we practice again on the 26th, so I’ll have a couple days to go home,” noted the son of John and Tammy Harler. “I’m lucky, though, because my family gets to come down for most of the games, so I get to see them pretty often.”
Growing up in Moundsville, which is just an hour and a half drive from Morgantown, Harler knew all about the Mountaineers growing up. From Truck Bryant to Alex Ruoff to Mike Gansey … especially Mike Gansey … Chase was entertained by Mountaineers of the past, often seeing them in person at the Coliseum when he was a kid. Thus it means a lot to him to get a chance to play for WVU himself.
“I take a lot of pride in wearing that West Virginia jersey,” said Harler, who is also a member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll for his academic work as a business major. “I know what it means to the people of the West Virginia, because I was just like them when I was younger. I take a lot of pride in representing the state.”