Five Mountaineers Have Viral Strains, Could Miss Time
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – One can add the flu to among the things Bob Huggins has to worry about.
The Mountaineers have been hit hard by influenza, with two players having already been to the hospital for IVs. A total of five players have had the virus, or flu-like symptoms, and several remain questionable for Saturday’s match-up against Kansas State.
Among them is Dax Miles. The senior guard missed WVU’s game at Iowa State, and again isn’t listed as a starter in the latest game notes. Huggins didn’t detail everyone who has been affected, though Chase Harler – who went through segments of this season ill – is expected to again start, as is Esa Ahmad.
The issue has wreaked havoc on trying to improve a team which struggled nearly across the board defensively over its last 60 minutes of play, allowing 47.6 points per half in the latter period against Kentucky and the game at Iowa State. Huggins said the team likely wouldn’t have 10 players at today’s practice, and noted that the Mountaineers were affected by the illness against Iowa State as well, which was among the reasons the team looked lethargic.
“Honestly I am just worried about having enough guys to play,” said Huggins, who himself began to feel poorly in the last 24 hours. “I don’t know what all we can do. We are going to dummy through a bunch of stuff, but I don’t know what we can do. I don’t think we have ever had this many guys sick at one time. I don’t think there is any doubt the Iowa State game we had no legs. Try to save as much energy as we can. Hopefully some of them get better.”
Huggins didn’t detail all the ill players, but did note that Harler was the first one to come down with the flu. The sophomore managed to get over the illness in a 48-hour period, which has not been the case for others.
“The crazy thing is Chase was sick for two days, but then it wasn’t as bad,” Huggins said. “Dax is really feeling bad. He’s still sick. That’s been five or six days. He hasn’t practiced or played and still sounds and looks terrible. We are just trying to survive.”
This flu season is especially difficult across the United States as the flu shot has proven just 20 percent effective against the H3N2 strain which has emerged as the primary threat. The shot still prevents other strains, and will lessen the effects of the flu, but isn’t as effective as in past seasons. It’s led to widespread outbreaks in 49 states, and on Thursday, concern about the flu forced Duke University to close “Krzyzewskiville,” the tent area where students camp out for basketball tickets.
“We will have to see how everybody is on game day,” Huggins said. “I really worry about having enough guys. What are you going to do? It’s something you can’t control, and if things continue the way they are it’s likely they’ll be someone else sick tomorrow. I’ve never seen anything like this. It seems like every day it’s a new guy.”
This is an aspect WVU deals with annually, but not typically in these numbers. Huggins said it’s the worst outbreak he has had on a team since the NCAA began reducing the number of scholarship players from 15 to 13 in the early 1990s. The peak of flu season is still two weeks away.
“What are you going to do?” he said. “You fly on a plane and all the air gets recycled. We’ve had guys that have been in an out of the hospital.”
West Virginia did watch film for one hour and 45 minutes on Thursday in preparation for a Kansas State team which has won five of seven, the only losses coming to Kansas. The Wildcats are led by forward Dean Wade, who averages more than 16 points and six rebounds per game. Freshman guard Cartier Diarra stepped into a starting role when Kamau Stokes injured his foot in early January. Stokes, who went 0-for-10 from the floor in WVU’s 77-69 win on Jan. 1 in Manhattan earlier this season, has not played since but is not ruled out for Saturday’s game.
“They are playing with a lot of confidence,” Huggins said. “Their guards have really stepped it up. The guards are good. Their bigs have gotten experience. They are a better team.”