Osabuohien Passing WVU’s Test
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When Gabe Osabuohien transferred from Arkansas to West Virginia this summer, WVU head coach Bob Huggins wasn’t quite certain the entire skill set the 6-foot-7 junior from Toronto, Canada was bringing to the Mountain State.
Huggins knew he was getting a long, active athlete who played hard and defended with gusto. But he didn’t realize Osabuohien had the passing ability he has displayed at times in his young Mountaineer career.
Thursday in WVU’s 84-53 victory over Austin Peay, Osabuohien had a game-high five assists to go along with four points, three rebounds and two steals.
“I think he can be,” Huggins said when asked if Osabuohien has the ability to be an elite passer. “I don’t think he is right now, but I think he can be.”
The former Razorbacks’ passing skills didn’t just magically appear once he arrived in Morgantown. He only averaged 3.1 points per game in 34 contests for Arkansas last year, but he contributed a total of 46 assists. He handed out four assists or more in four games, including a career-best six against LSU.
“I’ve always considered myself a good passer,” said Osabuohien, who spent a prep year at Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, before moving on to UA in 2017. “It’s something I definitely take pride in. I look to pass before I look for my own shot. I try to be a smart player, and I know my strengths and weaknesses. I believe passing is one of my strengths.
“To be a good passer, you have to have good vision,” he added. “But you also have to be unselfish and be willing to pass. Sometimes when I’m in the high post, I see Sean (McNeil) in the corner, and I know that he’s a great three-point shooter, so that’s a good spot to get him the ball. I’ll make the extra pass there for him to shoot the three. Also, you always have to look to get the ball to Oscar (Tshiebwe) or D.C. (Derek Culver) down low because they are so powerful around the rim.”
Osabuohien still is feeling his way into the West Virginia system. After transferring to WVU from Arkansas in August, the NCAA didn’t declare him eligible to play for the Mountaineers this season until late November after three games had already been played.
Having played two years with another major college program like the Razorbacks, Osabuohien had some knowledge of the high level of basketball that other newcomers didn’t necessarily possess.
“I don’t know that him playing at Power 5 helped him understand people movement and ball movement, but I do think it helped him understand the level you have to play at, how hard to have to play,” stated Huggins, whose team improved to 8-1 with Thursday’s victory.
Osabuohien has never been a big scorer in college – not at UA where he averaged just 2.4 points in his career and reached double figures just twice in that time, nor yet at West Virginia, where he is currently averaging 2.2 points a game. He contributes in other areas, though, like pulling down 3.7 rebounds per game and he’s now starting to flash signs of being a willing and able passer as well (1.7 per game).
“I’m definitely starting to get my legs under me,” noted Osabuohien. “By sitting and watching those first few games, I could see where I could contribute – be the unselfish, hard-worker, defensive guy. That’s what I’m trying to be. I’m growing into my role.”