WVU Veterans Under Pressure To Lead
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Jevon Carter played his final game for West Virginia last year and left for the Memphis Grizzlies, he was supposed to leave the keys to the team to the three veterans who would make it a smooth transition — Sagaba Konate, Esa Ahmad and Beetle Bolden.
Who knew he’d take the keys with him?
West Virginia, right now, is a mess and the knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the young players who simply have proven themselves not ready for prime time yet. That’s why the turnovers outnumber the baskets made, why the defense is in disarray, why the timing is off and the shooting incredibly bad.
No, wrong. Very wrong.
If you are going to lay the blame anywhere you must lay it at the feet of the three men who were supposed to take ownership of the team — Konate, Ahmad and Bolden.
After the debacle that was a 66-56 loss to Florida on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the growing pains were evident, but were not the cause of defeat.
Their numbers were staggeringly bad — and when you also toss in the other veteran Lamont West — it was as horrible a performance as you will ever see from players so much is expected of.
Combined, the four players made 6 of 35 shots, 17.1%; 1 of 11 from 3-point range, 9.1%; 1 of 7 free throws, 14.3%. They had 18 rebounds, four assists and nine turnovers while scoring just 14 points.
Horrors everywhere. Ahmad 0-5 in free throws, 1-4 on 3s, Konate no assists and fove turnovers and just one block, Bolden 1-10 shooting, West 0-6 shooting.
Huggins can’t quite figure out what to make of Bolden and Konate, both of whom have been slowed by injury, but in the end if you can play, you have to play well.
“Konate, he was the best rim protector in the country a year ago,” Huggins said. “He got to where he was a very effective low post player and he handled ball screens pretty well.”
It’s not there. It’s as if his time spent working out for the NBA and getting suggestions on how to broaden his game sent him spiraling in the wrong direction.
“He’s gifted,” Huggins said. “But you can’t turn and stick the ball between two guys. The guys who are really effective, they catch the ball, they feel the defense, they go away from the defense and they score.
“Now we’re into having to dribble it. He had a wide open shot at the foul line. What’d he do? He dribbled it. Why?”
And Bolden? What has happened there? How can Huggins get him going?
“It’s not a case of what I have to do. It’s a case of what he needs to do,” said Huggins, about to issue what is a stinging criticism. “He needs to go back to being the old Beetle, the guy everyone loved … Beetle Bolden, the first guy in the gym, the last guy to leave …. Beetle Bolden, the guy who hung on every word.
“He does that, he’ll be a pretty good player again. If he doesn’t do that …”
There was silence as Huggins thought where this was going.
“… he’s got a tough row to hoe,” he said.
And then there is Ahmad. He’s been an enigma since he’s been at WVU, a player who somehow hasn’t figured out how to use his tools.
Against Florida, Huggins felt he had to yank him off the floor early.
“I didn’t think he was playing as hard as I need him to play. To his credit, he came back and played really hard, like he can play,” Huggins said.
“You know, it’s tough when he can’t make shots and he didn’t make any shots, but he kept on playing. A lot of times guys don’t make shots and don’t play as hard. I thought he finished really strong as far as playing hard.”
But there’s something missing, the toughness, the intimidation that Huggins had built over the years in the Mountaineers.
“I think I can fix it,” Huggins said. “I fixed it before and when I can’t fix it, I cut it out. It’s not fair to everyone else. That’s why they call it team.”