WVU Veteran Chase Harler Anticipating More Help In Backcourt
MORGANOWN, W.Va. — Chase Harler has been West Virginia’s most consistent, and most available, backcourt player in the early part of the Mountaineers’ 2018-19 basketball season. Averaging 28.8 minutes per contest, he has brought energy and effort to bear while contributing 5.8 points per game to go along with five assists, and perhaps surprisingly, five blocked shots.
Viewed as a backup by many heading into the season, the junior has seized a spot in the starting lineup due to his experience and hard work. He has clearly been a leader for a West Virginia team that needs more strength in that regard, and he’s looking forward to getting more support from his teammates as they fight through injuries and learning curves.
“It’s been difficult,” he said of the limited availability of veteran Beetle Bolden, who has been hampered by a variety of injuries and has missed the last two games. “We had some guys step up , but it’s nice to have someone back there that knows what is going on.”
In its win over Valparaiso, WVU received some support in the backcourt from Jermaine Haley, who can play either guard spot, and from Brandon Knapper, who earned his first start and also showed advancement along the learning curve. Knapper and freshman Jordan McCabe are getting their collegiate action, and are still working to adjust to the different dynamics of games vs. practice. Once Bolden gets healthy, West Virginia will have a pair of veterans to work with the newcomers and first-year players.
There is still a long way to go before the guard spots become solidified. Offensively, shooting has been a bit above average, with Bolden and Harler both 5-14 from 3-point range, while Knapper is 3-8 and McCabe 4-10. Ballhandling, the bane of early games, has also been getting better. The Mountaineers had only seven turnovers against the Crusaders, and showed better accuracy and decision-making in passing the ball. Knapper in particular, looked more comfortable, albeit against a team that didn’t put a lot of pressure at the point.
“We did pass the ball better. We’ve put in an enormous amount of time in trying to teach them how to feed the post and pass to cutters,” head coach Bob Huggins said of his team.
While necessary, work on that fundamental has also taken time away for teaching other concepts, such as different defenses. WVU has been through a couple of different zones already, and Harler admits that the 2-3 and point-drop that were shown against Valpo are still works in progress.
“We probably need to work on it a little bit more. We, including myself, weren’t totally comfortable in it and they scored both times we ran it,” Harler said of the 2-3. “Our defense is probably going to have to change. We will have to play to our strengths.”
No matter what tactics the Mountaineers employ, communication is vital in forging successful team defense. That’s one place the Wheeling, W.Va., native believes he can help.
“It doesn’t take much to talk out there. It’s just a habit,” he noted. “Sometimes we get quiet out there. That’s where I feel that I can step up and help.”
Harler presaged the later comments of head coach Bob Huggins in noting that WVU might begin deploying the pack-line or other gap-based defensive tactics in order to try to contain penetration. One benefit of that, and one that figures to continue this year, is a lessening of fouls.
“We only had three fouls and there was like seven minutes or eight minutes left. We’re used to putting teams in the double bonus by like 12 minutes,” Harler said with a laugh. “That is going to benefit us, and I feel like at the end of games we might have more energy too.”