As always, Mountaineers seek inside help
The most interesting news concerning West Virginia’s basketball-playing Mountaineers is that a four-game series will be begun with Pittsburgh in the 2017-18 season. That year a game will be played in Pittsburgh and then in the 2018-19 season a game will be back in Morgantown. The Panthers will host a game in the 2019-20 season and then the Mountaineers have the game in Morgantown in 2020-21.
Formal practices began on October 2 and it won’t be long until the first two games of the coming season will be played at the Coliseum on Nov. 11 against Mt. St. Mary’s and Nov. 14 against Mississippi Valley State.
Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Jr. and Tarik Phillip give Coach Bob Huggins an experienced perimeter trio that should be comfortable enough with his pressure defenses and demanding ways.
Esa Ahmad is possibly the most important figure on this team because he was a mostly-hidden starter a year ago and must do much more this season if the Mountaineers are going to challenge the likes of Kansas, Texas, Baylor and Iowa State for Big 12 laurels.
Now a senior, Nathan Adrian has always managed to stay in Huggins’ player rotation, and that likely won’t change now.
There are two first-year players with some needed size on this roster. Do they have any scoring skills? Are they able defenders or defensive rebounders? Sagaba Konate is a freshman who played in Pennsylvania. He’s listed at 6-foot-8, 250 and in all likelihood will be given early-season playing time in hopes that he might do much more than the returning Elijah Macon, a poor free throw shooter and incomplete scorer.
Maciej Bender was born in Poland and played in the United States. He’s a freshman listed at 6-foot-10, 240 and could be as crude (or raw) as the redshirt, 6-foot-11 Logan Routt, a player Huggins recruited from Class A Cameron High in West Virginia last year.
Junior college transfer Teyvon Myers, who saw very little floor time in 2015-16, is another player coming back. Myers is now a senior and is only 6-feet tall and weighs 160.
It would seem Ahmad has to score nearly as well as Carter, Miles, Jr. and Phillip for West Virginia to produce a season where it receives at least an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Myers could be a fourth guard if he can be applied to the pressure defenses and can get to the free throw line and score some.
Where will the competent relief forces come from in fast-paced, foul-filled games? There need to be at least eight well-rounded players and nine would be a much better number.
As January comes and the conference schedule makes its way to the forefront there seems to always be somebody (or three) that is injured or forced to miss games.
There are not that many returning contributors that the list of newcomers can be a complete bust. Some first-year player has to be a help.
The Mountaineers of Mt. St. Mary’s are the first team to arrive in November. And then come the Delta Devils from Itta Bena, Mississippi. Those two are light years removed from Kansas, Texas and Baylor.