WVU’s Huggins Searching For The Right Fit
West Virginia’s men’s basketball program still has one scholarship available for the class of 2020.
The Mountaineers signed three prospects to National Letters of Intent last November – Kedrian Johnson, Taj Thweatt and Isaiah Cottrell – to fill the slots left by WVU’s departing three seniors – Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler and Logan Routt. When redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Knapper transferred this spring from West Virginia to Eastern Kentucky, Bob Huggins’ program had a fourth scholarship at his disposal.
But just because Huggins has one doesn’t mean his definitely going to use it.
“I’m not concerned (about filling the scholarship) because if we don’t, we don’t,” said Huggins. “Let’s be honest; we’re not going to be able to play 13 guys anyways. In a lot of ways, it makes our (rotation) decisions a little easier.”
If Huggins does fill WVU’s 13th and final scholarship for this year, he doesn’t seem adamant about having to find a specific type player, be it a transfer or a freshman, a guard or a front court prospect.
“It’s kind of like fishin’,” the veteran coach noted. “When you go fishing, if you catch a really good crappie, you’re probably going to keep him. If you catch a really good large mouth (bass) or small mouth or walleye, you keep them, but if the ones you catch aren’t very good, you toss them back in and tell them to grow up.
“It’s kind of that way. We have the opportunity, I think for the first time in a long time, to select,” Huggins continued. “We can sit here and look at who is available and see who fits. I don’t want to bring in anyone who doesn’t fit, because we have a great group right now. I don’t want to bring anyone in who won’t work with our guys.”
For Huggins, fit in terms of personality and work ethic seemingly is the biggest key. With six of his seven leading scorers back from a 21-10 club this past season, all coming from a team that was noticeably drama-free, keeping a strong locker room is very important.
Of the 10 Mountaineers who averaged more than three points per game last year, eight of them are slated to be return. Then add to that the three signees, as well as Jalen Bridges, who redshirted last season, and depth certainly doesn’t appear to be an issue, even if WVU leaves one scholarship unused.
“If we add someone, I just want to make 100-percent sure they fit in,” Huggins said. “We’ve got a great chemistry right now. These players like being around each other. I don’t know how you get a better situation than you have right now.
“We’re actually in great shape,” he added “There are very few people who have the number of guys coming back that we have.
“We signed three guys early. They all have done really well academically, and they’re champing at the bit to get here and get started. So, the three seniors we lost, we already had replaced them. Then Brandon Knapper decided to transfer, and that leaves us with one scholarship.”
Huggins may leave that available scholarship unused, but he and his staff are definitely looking at prospects, if they can find the right fit.
While a freshman, even one who would redshirt, would seeming be an option, there over 500 experienced players in the transfer portal this year, including more than 50 graduate transfers who are eligible right away for the 2020-21 season.
“We’ve been talking to people, obviously,” explained Huggins. “I think with us, it’s important that if we take another guy, that he fits. If we take another guy, he has to be able to come in and help this group that we have achieve their goals.
“This has been a great group. They’ve been terrific on and off the floor. They’re really excited about being able to get back. They enjoy being around each other, and they enjoy being at West Virginia. We’re not facing a lot of the things other people are.”