2017-18 WVU Basketball Preview
BGS’ Shanna Rose takes a look at the upcoming WVU basketball season.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–After last season’s Sweet 16 appearance, the West Virginia University basketball team is determined to get to the Final Four and win head coach Bob Huggins that elusive National Championship.
In 2016, the Mountaineers won 28 games, while setting a school record for scoring. They finished second in the Big 12, behind Kansas and made it to the Big 12 Tournament Championship for a second consecutive season.
Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr. and Esa Ahmad all return. However, Ahmad will miss the first half of the season due to a violation of NCCA rules.
WVU lost Nathan Adrian, Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers and Brandon Watkins, all who graduated. Forward Elijah Macon left following his junior campaign to pursue a professional career.
The Mountaineers will depend on several newcomers to contribute.
The duo of Carter and Miles give WVU one of the best backcourts in the Big 12. Carter led the Mountaineers in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per contest. The Maywood, Illinois native grabbed 5.0 boards and totaled 93 steals last season. His defensive play earned him NABC Defensive Player of the Year Honors. But it’s Carter’s work ethic that stands out. Huggins constantly praised the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior for consistently being in the gym. Miles averaged 8.8 points and 2.5 rebounds as a junior. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard will provide leadership and experience. He has started in 91 games over the last three seasons.
James “Beetle Bolden and Chase Harler saw limited action last season. Bolden’s best game came in the Mountaineers’ comeback over Oklahoma. The sophomore had 17 points in 10 minutes. His ability to drain 3s is a plus. The 6-foot, 170-guard made 4-of-7 from beyond the arc in last weekend’s exhibition game against Albany. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Harler averaged just 1.4 points last season. The two-time West Virginia Player of the Year worked hard over the summer. He also has the ability to make 3-pointers.
Freshman Brandon Knapper was predicted to be a newcomer that could make an immediate impact. However, he suffered a knee injury that required the freshman to go under the knife and will miss significant time.
Ahmad returns for his junior season but there is one catch. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward is suspended until January. If WVU wants to stop Kansas’ reign as conference champions, the Mountaineers will need big production from Ahmad upon his return. Against the Jayhawks last season, he had a career-high 27 points. Ahmad averaged 11.3 points and 4.3 rebounds last year.
Sophomores Lamont West, Sagaba Konate, Maciej Bender and Logan Routt will all see increased playing time this year. West has proven he is capable of stretching opponents’ defenses with his precise 3-point shooting. Last season, the 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward drained six 3s in two different games. On average he tallied 5.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. Konate turned heads last season with his defensive performance. The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder set a school record with 53 blocks. Konate averaged 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds. Bender saw limited action last season but the 6-foot-10, 240-pound big man showed moments of promise. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Routt hails from Cameron and earned a scholarship this summer. He worked hard over the offseason and could be a pleasant surprise.
Junior college transfers Wesley Harris and D’Angelo Hunter could be immediate contributors. Harris sat out last season due to an injury. As a freshman at Northeast Mississippi, he average 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore is athletic and has a perimeter jump shot. Hunter averaged 15.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Freshman Teddy Allen brings a load of potential to WVU. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward averaged 31.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.3 steals this past season for Boys Town High School, earning him Nebraska High School Player of the Year Award.
The Mountaineers have some talented players returning but a lot of youth in the frontcourt. With Carter carrying WVU on his shoulders, the Mountaineers are in good hands. Carter is the face of WVU’s pressure defense. With the suspension of Ahmad and the injury to Knapper, the question at hand is whether the Mountaineers have enough men to press for a full 40 minutes.
Kansas is the favorite to win the conference but WVU will be one of the teams right they’re knocking on the Jayhawks’ door.
Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS