The Mountaineers’ one-two punch at the point guard position from last year returns for WVU’s men’s basketball team in 2020-21.
The COVID-19 situation has many concerned about the state of college athletics for the coming academic year, but if/when basketball season does tipoff, West Virginia’s point guard situation is in experienced hands. The Mountaineer basketball players returned to Morgantown July 6 for the start of their voluntary summer workouts.
Though Jermaine Haley, who was a senior last year, and Brandon Knapper, a third-year sophomore who is transferring to Eastern Kentucky, also would chip in at times at the point, usually those duties in 2019-20 were split between Jordan McCabe (6-0, 188 lbs., Jr.) and Deuce McBride (6-2, 196 lbs., Soph.).
McCabe and McBride will again be key cogs in Bob Huggins’ hoop machine, often rotating at point guard, though occasionally playing together with McBride moving off the ball to the two-guard spot.
Last year McCabe generally got the starting nod, though McBride averaged more minutes per game. For the 21-10 Mountaineers, whose season came to an abrupt end because of the pandemic just as the postseason was about to begin, McCabe started 29 of the 31 games, while McBride started the other two. The minutes played were flipped, though, as Deuce averaged more than 22 minutes per game and Jordan 13:30.
A native of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, McCabe had finished his freshman year with a flourish. Though he averaged just 5.8 points and 2.5 assists in his rookie season of 2018-19 as a whole, he reached double figures in scoring in eight of WVU’s final 10 games and averaged 12.5 points and 5.0 assists in that stretch.
He couldn’t find that same level of efficiency this past season, though. McCabe averaged 3.1 points and 1.7 assists in 2019-20 with a pair of 10-point outputs as his season high. Having hit 33.8 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman (44 of 130), that number plummeted to 20.9 percent as a sophomore (14 of 67).
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, McCabe’s struggles were more than offset by McBride’s performance. The Cincinnati, Ohio, product hit the ground running as a true freshman, averaging 9.5 points and 1.8 assists on the season. He had an 11-game midseason stretch in which he reached double figures in scoring 10 times. That included 21 points in leading WVU to an upset of then-No. 2 Ohio State in Cleveland on Dec. 29, as well as a season-high 22 points in a win over Texas Tech on Jan. 11. Deuce faded some in February, averaging just 5.9 points in West Virginia’s eight games that month, but then got his grove again late, averaging 14 points in the Mountaineers’ three contests in March before the season came to a sudden halt.
Outside of a 3-for-4 effort from three-point range against Ohio State, most of McBride’s scoring damage came on drives and from mid-range. He finished the season making 30.4 percent of his three-point attempts (24 of 79) but was a more respectable 44.6 percent on his two-point shots (78 of 175). He also converted 74.7 percent of his free throws (68 of 91).
Deuce wound up as WVU’s third-leading scorer last season behind only forwards Oscar Tshiebwe (11.2 ppg) and Derek Culver (10.4 ppg). McBride and Tshiebwe were each selected to the all-Big 12 freshmen team.
Now with a year of collegiate experience under his belt, McBride will try to take his game up another notch. At the same time, McCabe looks to find the touch he displayed at the end of his freshman season.
As for point guard depth, Huggins doesn’t have a multi-purpose tool at his disposal this season was he did last with the 6-foot-7 Haley, who could provide assistance at any position from power forward to point guard. And while Knapper admittedly had consistency issues, he also was another option at the point.
Both those are gone now, though, so West Virginia has to figure out where its point guard depth is going to come from this season.
Walk-on Spencer Macke (5-11, 170 lbs., Soph.) is a possibility. The youngster from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, played in seven games for the Mountaineers as a true freshman and scored eight total points, but his duty was limited to blowout situations. He’ll have to be able to handle more pressure-packed moments if he’s going to be a reliable reserve behind the M&M duo.
The Mountaineers also will probably be able to turn to combo-guards Taz Sherman (6-4, 185 lbs., Sr.) and Kedrian Johnson (6-3, 180 lbs., Jr.) for additional point guard help. Sherman averaged 5.3 points last year in his first season at WVU after transferring in from Collin (TX) Collin. Johnson, an incoming transfer from Temple (TX) College, averaged 25.6 points per game this past season in the juco ranks. Each has shown the ability to score from the shooting guard spot, but there may be times in the future West Virginia needs them to be ballhandlers and distributors as well.