MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After a great deal of movement and speculation, the roster for the Mountaineers’ 2021-22 men’s basketball team appears to be pretty much set … the key word there is “appears.”
“Probably after the first three or four games,” quipped West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins when asked about how long it will be before he is confident his roster was truly locked in.
For now, the Mountaineers’ comings and goings have ceased … it seems.
All six newcomers who signed with West Virginia are now enrolled at WVU.
True freshmen Seth Wilson (6-3, 185 lbs.) and Kobe Johnson (6-4, 207 lbs.) entered the University in June, as did Florida International grad transfer Dimon Carrigan (6-9, 215 lbs.). Recently, the three other new pieces of the class of 2021 arrived in Morgantown with DePaul grad transfer Pauly Paulicap (6-8, 225 lbs.), Old Dominion grad transfer Malik Curry (6-1, 180 lbs.) and true freshman Jamel King (6-7, 190 lbs.) each enrolling at WVU the past couple of weeks.
Those six newcomers join a squad that returns eight scholarship players from last year’s squad (the class status for each individual reflects the fact that the NCAA didn’t count last season on a student-athlete’s eligibility clock because of COVID): Jalen Bridges (6-7, 220 lbs., RFr.), Isaiah Cottrell (6-10, 240 lbs., Fr.), Kedrian Johnson (6-3, 180 lbs., Jr.), Sean McNeil (6-3, 210 lbs., Jr.), Seny N’diay (6-10, 235 lbs., Fr.), Gabe Osabuohien (6-7, 235 lbs., Sr.), Taz Sherman (6-4, 190 lbs., Sr.) and Taj Thweat (6-7, 210 lbs., Fr.).
West Virginia still has one additional scholarship at its disposal, if it wants to use it for the 2021-22 season, but at this point, Huggins seems content with the 14 he currently has on the roster.
“With the advent of the portal, which they can use pretty much whenever they want to use it, and the ability to transfer with immediate eligibility for first-time transfers, it’s never been this fluid, ever,” said Huggins of the roster movement across the Division I ranks.
Because the NCAA didn’t count the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season toward a basketball players’ eligibility clock, every Mountaineer on last year’s team was eligible to return to WVU again this coming season. Osabuohien and Sherman both are using their extra year to come back to West Virginia as “Super Seniors,” and they are each getting a chance to play a fifth year of college basketball. Sherman tested the NBA waters this spring before deciding to come back to college. McNeil also tested his pro potential before announcing recently that he too was returning to WVU.
A number of their ’20-’21 teammates are moving on, though.
Emmitt Matthews and Jordan McCabe have transferred to Washington and UNLV respectively. Derek Culver and Deuce McBride have each decided to enter the professional ranks, forgoing their remaining college eligibility. Though Culver is not listed by many mock NBA drafts as being selected in the two-round draft, which will be held July 29 (in fact, CBSsports.com doesn’t list Culver among its top 100 prospects in this year’s NBA class), McBride is generally regarded as a mid to late first-round pick (No. 16 by CBSsports.com).
Huggins isn’t a big fan of all the movement, especially with most of the deadlines for the stay-or-go decisions coming in early July.
“With the draft, you used to have to get out of the draft earlier than you do now,” explained Huggins, who holds a record of 900-382 in his 39 seasons as a college head coach. “It’s not the NBA as much as it is our governing body.
“It’s supposed to be all about student rights,” he continued. “I’ve said many, many times – and have been chastised a time or two – but what about the rights of the other guys? Do they matter? Everybody wants to be part of a team, but when you’re part of a team, you should look out for the other guys. Dragging things out to the last minute, be it with the transfer portal or the NBA Draft, you’re not doing what is in the best interest of your teammates.
“If the people over in Indianapolis (at the NCAA headquarters) had done things that were right, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in. But they know more than we know. They know more than guys who have been in this business for 30 years,” added Huggins, who is the sixth-winningest Division I coach of all time and just four victories from moving up fourth, passing the retired pair of Bob Knight (902-371) and Roy Williams (903-264). “They do things that they think are in our best interest. If they had paid the O’Bannons to start with, we wouldn’t be in this Name, Image and Likeness situation.”
All the turnover in college basketball has made long-term roster planning nearly impossible.
“Anything beyond one-year plans are done,” stated Huggins. “We’re going to bring in freshmen who if everything doesn’t go the way they want it to go, think they may be in over their head or don’t like this or don’t like that, they can leave. It’s not, let’s win one for our university, let’s win one for our fans, let’s win one for our teammates. It’s pretty much, what’s the best way for me to get to the League (NBA).
“It’s an entirely different situation than it used to be.”
Of course, what the transfer portal takes away, it can also give back.
“It’s a two-way street,” noted Huggins. “Yes, we lose some guys, but hopefully we can get some guys through the portal who can fill that or maybe, hopefully, do more.”