MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– The West Virginia University basketball team announced on Thursday that Jonathan Holton had been reinstated to the team. Holton missed four games due to a violation of team rules.
During Holton’s suspension, the Mountaineers went 2-2 with wins over Iowa State on the road and Baylor at home. But it was apparent WVU’s press was lacking without the 6-foot-7 forward.
Holton is one of the top defenders on the team. He defends on the inbounds pass and rattles opponents.
The Miami, Fla. native has forced 23 turnovers, has 22 steals and nine blocks through 20 games this season. He averages 9.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He is second in the Big 12 in 2-point field-goal percentage (65.4).
Holton logs a lot of minutes and brings a lot of energy to the court, energy the Mountaineers were at times without over the last four games.
“I noticed it pressing wise because when I would press, I would be pressing with two guards rather than a 6-7 dude with a 7-1 wing span or whatever he has,” junior guard Tarik Phillip said. “So I kind of noticed it. I’m pretty sure our teammates and coaches did too, rebounding wise and things like that.”
Holton is a force on the boards. He is second on the team in rebounding with 150 rebounds this season. Devin Williams leads the team with 211. The senior forward is 10th in the nation on the offensive glass.
In Holton’s absence WVU forward Nathan Adrian has really stepped up his game. The junior averaged 8.5 points, including 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc over the last four games.
The Morgantown native played a crucial role in the team’s success while the Mountaineers were without Holton.
“I feel like Nate gained a lot of confidence when Jon was out, which we needed,” Phillip said. “He started hitting shots, which we are going to need down the road.”
Adrian is listed as a probable starter on Saturday afternoon when the Mountaineers take on TCU, but no matter who gets the start, Adrian or Holton, head coach Bob Huggins believes his team will be better than before.
“I think Nate has played extremely well and so whichever way we go it’s going to make us better,” Huggins said. “It’s not a bad thing having Nate or Jon coming in with Jaysean (Paige) and Tarik (Phillip). So whichever way we go, it’s going to be fine.”
Holton has been away from the team for two weeks, but Huggins isn’t too worried.
“He was probably a little more out of breath yesterday than what he normally is, but Jon doesn’t have any body fat,” Huggins said. “The guys like him, they get into shape faster than you or I do.”
Holton’s return comes at decisive time for WVU, who is locked in a three-way tie with No. 6 Kansas and No. 3 Oklahoma at the top of the Big 12 standings.
Having Holton back in the lineup gives the Mountaineers the chance to play like they are accustomed to and how Huggins has wanted them to play.
“It helps,” Huggins said. “We were short people. We got some guys that have been sick. Hopefully they can go a little bit today and tomorrow. If we are back at full strength then absolutely.”