Potential For Flexible WVU Hoops Lineups A Plus, Will Take Time To Develop
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s revamped and rolled-over basketball rosters offers lots of promise – and lots of options – for the 2018-19 season. With a number of players capable of playing multiple positions, the Mountaineers could roll out numerous different looks when they take the court next year.
In addition to the obvious advantages that provides, this edition of Huggins’ press corps might also be better equipped to withstand foul trouble, a plague that occasionally descends when games are called tightly, or a player has an offnight defensively. The former cost WVU a couple of games last season, not the least of which were the road game at Kansas and the Sweet 16 contest against eventual national champion Villanova. In both, a disparity of foul calls weighed heavily on the outcome, and left WVU shorthanded at critical junctures.
This season, West Virginia hopes, and expects, to have more players available for play, and more that it is willing to put into games at key points. It might not be a stretch to think that WVU’s roster could go 11, 12 or even 13 players deep, even though that would mean almost every player on the roster would have earned the right to get minutes. That usually doesn’t happen – at some point one or two players will show that they probably aren’t ready for those roles, or an injury or some other problem might crop up that makes a player unavailable for duty. A redshirt or two might even occur. Even so, the Mountaineers look to have more pieces available to fit into the puzzle for year.
The process of figuring that all out will be one that takes a while, and will progress far into the season, “without question,” according to Everhart.
“I think it’s an exciting thing,” the Fairmont, W.Va., native expanded. “As coaches, we are always looking for ways to enhance the versatility of our team. With this group of guys, obviously the depth will be a real strength, but the other part of it is that we are versatile. We have four guys at the wing position that can play maybe three positions [each]. It give you things like being able to switch all ball screens, and really make your defense and offense better, and to be able to plug guys in in certain situations.”
That wasn’t the case a year ago. Although the Mountaineers had another bulldog defense, there were only seven players that recorded more than 12 minutes per game. Foul trouble, injury or illness meant filling a gap, usually by asking another of the first seven to log more minutes. That also didn’t help West Virginia’s press, which functions at its best when it can feature waves of players to sub in and keep everyone relatively fresh.
Thus, there’s a lot to learn about the incoming squad, and West Virginia’s coaches are just getting started in that process. Limited to four hours of practice during the summer, these June and July sessions are more about familiarization for both the coaches and players, and the initial building of team bonds, as they are Xs and Os.
“In terms of getting our guys more time playing with each other early on, I think that it kind of enhances their chemistry a little bit,” said Everhart, who is entering his eighth season as a Mountaineer assistant. “I think that’s always good, to create a better team feel early in the summer. I like it because it give you a chance to get to know your players better.”
With that process just underway, the staff is nowhere near thinking about starting lineups or potential rotations yet. Certainly, returnees will be solidly in the mix, but at this point the permutations are so many that they don’t bear thinking about. For the next couple of months, until the official start of practice in September, the focus will be on building that chemistry, and perhaps seeing what players might fit in what roles. For the veterans, it will be about continuing to improve and bolstering weak spots, while the newcomers will be battling to show they are ready to contribute.
Even if everything goes as well as hoped, there’s no doubt that this season will be a learning one, at least early on. With seven newcomers and only one senior on the roster, experience is in short supply, and it will take time to figure out where everyone stands, and then fit them all together into the roles that best help the team. The key for Everhart and the rest of the staff is to keep them on an upward improvement arc while solving that puzzle.