WVU Hoops Purge First Step In ‘Fixing It’
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — So much for Senior Night.
Esa Ahmad was the only senior on Bob Huggins’ roster this season and now he is gone, banished from the team along with junior Wesley Harris for “violating athletic department rules”.
And so ended in disgrace a college basketball career for that was born with high hopes.
Ahmad and Harris certainly dragged themselves down and the shame is that they seem to have dragged the entire team down with them.
No one is saying what it was that forced the hand of the athletic department to sever its relationship with the two players but sources have verified it was neither a matter of academics nor anything such as getting into a fight or in trouble with the law.
Read into that what you will.
But think of the “Me, Too” movement that put the spotlight on sexual harassment in the business, entertainment and athletic industries and how there is also a “Me First” movement in athletics that has long been growing, where the individual has become in his own mind more important than the team.
The selfishness displayed throughout, from coaches jumping from one job to the next ahead of either the NCAA sheriff or an angry mob has grown into players who now transfer simply to benefit themselves without caring about the coach who gave them their chance or their teammates or schoolmates or fans.
This attitude started with free agency in the professional sports, which led to ridiculous salaries and to kingmakers of agents that reached the point the players would have more say into who was coaching the team than the general manager.
Throughout the college game, as well as the professional game, there are Svengalis who pull the strings on players, all too often looking to profit themselves no matter how it affects others.
When one looks at what happened here at West Virginia, with Sagaba Konate clearly listening to his family over doctors and coaches, with players such as Ahmad and Harris going off into some transgression of their own which led to suspensions and benchings, that would certainly seem to be at least a contributing factor to the inconsistency with which they played that hurt the team.
They were supposed to be the three starting front court players coming into the season, the main strength of the team that was supposed to carry it into the post-season.
But now the season has been devastated like a cardboard shack caught in the winds of a hurricane and all coach Bob Huggins can do is look forward.
“We will fix it,” he said Tuesday. “Maybe not this year, but we will fix it.”
All of a sudden the key to fixing it is Lamont West, now the veteran up front.
“We need to get Lamont West back to being the Lamont West we’ve all seen on occasion,” Huggins admits.
It also opens up playing time for other players.
“It gives us a chance to experiment with playing two bigs,” Huggins said. “In all likelihood we’ll do that next year.”
That would be talented freshman Derek Culver and the McDonald’s All-American recruit Oscar Tshiewbe, and potentially Konate, should he decide that his injured knee this season has hurt his NBA chances to the point that he needs another year of college basketball.
“It gives a kid like Emmitt Matthews a chance,” Huggins also noted, speaking of a freshman who hasn’t had a lot of playing time but who will the rest of the way.
Add Trey Doomes to that picture, too, and Huggins will get a far better picture of what he might have next season from what’s left of this.
There will be new players on the scene and Beetle Bolden, hopefully healthy, will return this year — and next — while WVU will add some much needed help at guard via Cincinnati recruit Miles McBride and some junior college signings.
There is ability there to rebuild quickly, especially if Konate and Bolden come back healthy, West rediscovers his shooting touch and players such Jordan McCabe, Brandon Knapper, Matthews, Doomes and Jermaine Haley mature.
It’s a lot to ask but removing the two players who were dismissed and a dose of preventive medicine may cast some sunshine on the gloomy picture that had been painted in Morgantown over this past season.