Injuries Continue To Plague WVU Rebuilding Effort
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Under normal circumstances, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins would be spending his Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum doing some last-second tweaking on his basketball team as it faces Lehigh.
The 2 p.m. game will be carried on the AT$&T Sports Network and is the final non-conference venture in December before diving headlong into the Big 12 season Wednesday at the Coliseum against Texas Tech.
It has been a rocky early season road for WVU with injuries and inexperience creating a team that could produce no more than a 7-4 record to date to put up against the 7-3 mark the Mountain Hawks bring with them to Morgantown.
The inexperience has turned Huggins from coach into teacher and the injuries have left uncertain at any time who will be on the court at any given time.
What is certain is that his best player, Sagaba Konate, who has had all kinds of complications coming back from off-season knee surgery will not be ready for some time.
Guard Beetle Bolden, who was supposed to run the point and provide a solid foundation to the offense, has had nearly every limb on his body injured at one time or another, leading to inconsistency in his play which has led him to sinking just seven of his last 35 shots (20 percent).
Now they add Lamont West, an outside threat who also has become a rebounding factor by averaging 4.7 per game to go with his 11.5 scoring average.
Over the holiday break, West also was injured, Huggins saying “he hurt his knee two days ago.”
While it’s not expected that he will miss the game, he joins the long lines in the training room.
“It looks like a MASH unit in there,” Huggins said.
And that’s not good, for Huggins, the teacher, has a lot to do before he can go back to being Huggins, the coach.
“We’ve got so much to get better at,” he said, “and we’re trying to do that, trying to fix the press so we can something out of our pressure. We haven’t gotten much so far.”
“Press Virginia’ has become “Stress Virginia” as they have staggered through the first 11 games.
In the midst of it all is Esa Ahmad, a senior forward with NBA dreams but who has yo-yoed up and down during his entire career, including this season. In WVU’s last game, a two-point squeaker over Jacksonville State, he spent the second half on the bench.
Asked if Ahmad had responded to the benching, Huggins answered:
“He’s fine. He does what he does.”
That means sometimes he takes over games, sometimes disappears. In many ways he is a perplexing problem.
“You worry about him defensively sometimes,” Huggins admitted. “But then you look and see he leads the team in deflections and steals and all the defensive stats like that which we keep. It’s not always the way you want it done in steals, but he does it.”
Huggins is trying to get his team to play as a unit while protecting the ball far better than they have so far, but it isn’t easy.
“We went over the things we used to do,” he said. ‘Everything you do is personnel related. What worked at center for Wellington Smith didn’t work for Deniz Kilicli and what worked for Deniz will not work for Logan Routt.”
So each approach is individualized until you can mold them into a team. Normally there’s a couple of guys like that but this year Huggins is working with the likes of Brandon Knapper, Jermaine Haley, Andrew Gordon, Derek Culver and Jordan McCabe.
Gordon is a perfect example.
“Rhode Island showed Drew’s inexperience,” Huggins said. “He’s only played basketball two years. He goes out there, gets a rebound and then starts walking with it.”
With Culver, who just joined the team, they are trying to build on his strengths and on what he knows so far but those are things that not mesh at present with the other guys on the team.
‘At times I’m sure we overload them and we people are overloaded, academically or physically, then tend to shut down,” Huggins said.