Knapper Weathers Setbacks, Ready For WVU Hoop Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –Life has this way of testing you and it usually comes along right around the moment when the sun seems to be shining the brightest.
It doesn’t knock on the door or announce that it’s throwing you a curve ball to see if you can handle it and it may come up at any time in your life, but never when it’s most convenient.
Brandon Knapper, the redshirt freshman guard who well may wind up as Jevon Carter’s replacement on this year’s Mountaineer team, knows all about it.
Knapper seemed to have it all a couple of years back when he finished his career at South Charleston High School, winning three consecutive West Virginia Player of the Year Awards, then spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy while converting himself from a scorer to a point guard under A.W. Hamilton.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins, looking for someone to fill Jevon Carter’s sneakers, swooped in and scooped Knapper up, but an off-season meniscus tear forced surgery and he wound up redshirting the season.
That was difficult enough, an eager, talented young player unable to play the game he loved for the state he loved.
“It was very frustrating. I just tried to stay positive and stay in the gym,” he said of his recovery.
He made it through the season and was itching to get going this year when one of lightning bolts from out of the blue struck him and he had pulmonary problem that included a blood clot.
All of a sudden, he wasn’t facing just missing a year of basketball. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever play again.
“It was very challenging,” Knapper admitted before Tuesday’s practice. “I talked to my family. They told me to just keep positive, to keep God first and keep praying. I love this game and having to be out that long was frustrating but I had to stay positive and have a good mindset.”
Praying led to playing.
“Like I said, I had to keep God first. The coaching staff was in my ear. They were pushing me to stay positive and to keep the negativity away,” he said.
The doctors allowed him to work out during his down time but he couldn’t play the game or practice the game on the court.
That had to lead to even more frustration.
“The positive thing was that he was allowed to work out,” Huggins suggested. “He wasn’t allowed to play, but he could work out. They were more concerned with contact with him than with him coming in and spending time, so I don’t think it was as bad as it could have been.
“If he had been shut down totally, that would have been really hard on him.”
So he’d come in every day during the off season and do his conditioning.
“Jordan (McCabe, a freshman point guard like himself) was in here working out,” Huggins said. “There were teammates in here, so there were people he could work out with. If he was totally out of it I think it would have been really, really hard on him.”
You have to understand, this came on top of a year when he could not play due to the injury and redshirt decision. Now he had a chance to not only play, but play a key role with Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. gone.
“I was going to be thankful to have a chance to step on the court and play for the state of West Virginia,” he said. “I’ll get a chance to put a jersey on this year and I’m thankful.”
He also didn’t let the redshirt year become a lost year.
“I learned a lot, going up and talking to coaching staff and talking to Dax and Jevon, hearing what they think about the game. They told me to watch film a lot and basically to become more of a student of the game,” he said.
But he didn’t learn only about the game.
He learned a lot about himself.
“Sitting out, I had to find myself mentally. Physically, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out and play but mentally I had find a way to be positive. I have to go out and play my game and not try to impress anybody, just do what I can do out there.”
Right now he is at about 100 percent and fully expects to be at the top of his game once he shakes the rust off, joining the other guards — McCabe, Beetle Bolden, Trey Doomes, Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler and Taevon Horton.