Carter an all-round leader of WVU basketball
MORGANTOWN – With Jevon Carter, West Virginia has a savvy on-court leader, among the best defensive players in the Big 12, a consistent scorer and a point guard who can actually make free throws. Carter will be the uncontested leader of everything West Virginia basketball this season.
The identifying mark of the Mountaineers has become the team’s full-court pressure defense. At least in the early part of the coming season, Coach Bob Huggins says his youth-studded team will employ more of the same pressure in the backcourt – as employed in previous years.
Joining Carter as sure starters are mercurial Daxter Miles, Jr., often a liability when shooting free throws and an inconsistent scorer and shooter, and hustling Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound sophomore with ever-improving skills and a taste for the inside roughness that often colors conference games.
That’s three known players Huggins has.
Sure to play is Lamont West, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound player interested mostly in scoring. West will inherit many of the minutes Esa Ahmad would have taken if not ruled ineligible for the “first half of the season.” West’s effectiveness in the pressure defense system is spotty at best.
Another “score first, ask questions later about my defense” player is slightly-built guard James Bolden.
The loss of Tarik Phillip from last year’s team should bring more minutes for Bolden – at least until he possibly plays his way out of the coach’s rotation.
Maciej Bender is 6-foot-10, 255-pounds and has unlimited room for improvement. Bender appeared unsuited for many phases of college basketball. He misses too many free throws, commits way too many fouls and scares nobody when the last sentry trying to stop an opponent from scoring quickly against the WVU pressure. Bender will get playing time in the early season.
And now for the newest players to Mountaineers basketball.
Wesley Harris is 6-foot-8 and a slender 200 pounds. His immediate role is as rebounder to help Konate. Can Harris score some? His effectiveness in the pressure defense will be quickly evaluated, but there is little or no help on the roster if he can’t contribute.
DeAngelo Hunter is reported by Huggins to score enough, and at 6-foot-6, 190 pounds could be placed in the backcourt when the Mountaineers have a man guarding the opponent trying to in-bound the ball against the press.
Wide-shouldered Teddy Allen brings a points-first mentality with him. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds. As a freshman, his value is unknown, as are his work ethic and defensive acumen.
Practice has begun. Huggins has a pure gem in Carter, but he isn’t completely indefatigable – or is he?
For nearly every American, Morgan State, Coppin State and New Jersey Institute of Technology there are counterbalances in Texas A&M, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Kentucky.
Konate has to be very consistent. He has to limit his fouls. Ahmad has to return ready to meet the Big 12 competition. Somewhere in the Harris/Hunter/Allen trio there has to be a knowledge of what it takes to win college basketball games in hostile environments and with last-minutes free throws.
The useful depth may prove to be too shallow to employ game-long pressure. At least until Ahmad returns in mid-season.
The experienced numbers are few. But West Virginia’s pressure can melt teams in Morgantown. Hustle and more hustle makes up for a long list of shortcomings.