West Virginia men’s basketball head coach Bob Huggins and players Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien, Sean McNeil and Isaiah Cottrell met with the media Thursday afternoon prior to the team’s Gold-Blue debut set to take place on Friday evening inside the Coliseum.
The Mountaineers will be returning a strong core of guards and quality basketball players in the back court this season including Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman but will also be welcoming in a large class of transfers and recruits new to the team this season.
Huggins explained that the team’s offense is looking much better than the defense through practices so far and that he expects there to be a lot of guys on his team’s unit this season that opponents will have to keep an eye on and guard in critical situations.
“You’ve got to be able to spread them, but I think they can, I think they’re going to have to guard all of these guys,” Huggins said. “We don’t guard very well, we’re putting a lot of time into trying to do a better job of guarding the ball and trying to do a better job of guarding without fouling.”
West Virginia will certainly go with a more guard heavy offensive set this season with more playmakers and scoring threats in the back court.
“I feel like we have guards that without a traditional point guard we can still get into the same type of offensive sets we want to get into,” Huggins said. “Same thing defensively, I feel like we have the defensive capability to not just have that one guard who picks it all up.”
The recruits that West Virginia was able to secure include England native and former Beckley Prep ballplayer down the road in Beckley, West Virginia, James Okonkwo. Canton Ohio native and McKinley High School guard Kobe Johnson, Bella Vista Prep in Arizona via Uniontown, Alabama native forward Jamel King and Lorain, Ohio guard Seth Wilson.
The team’s transfers include forward Dimon Carrigan from Florida International, Old Dominion guard Malik Curry and DePaul forward Pauly Paulicap.
“DC [Dimon Carrigan] had done a great job, Pauly’s not as big but he’s bouncy and Seny [Ndiaye] is getting better, he’s getting better defensively, although he still struggles offensively,” explained Huggins of his incoming transfers he has joining the Mountaineers this season.
One area that Huggins hopes to see his team improve in this year is his team’s free throw shooting where he believes West Virginia could have had a few more victories if it weren’t for poor free throw shooting down the stretch.
“We have to make free throws down the stretch that we didn’t do a year ago, we’d have another five or six wins if we just made free throws. Think about how many free throws we missed, and they came down the court,” Huggins said.
Many expect sophomore forward Jalen Bridges to be a standout yet again this season after playing in 28 games after forward Oscar Tshiebwe left West Virginia for Kentucky. Bridges most impressive basketball traits came on the inside and in the paint after making 12 blocks last season as the lengthy forward will play a lot of the time beside fifth year forward Gabe Osabuohien.
“Our philosophy is we have two people on opposite every time so we’re sending two or three people to the glass every time, J.B. [Bridges] is going to come down and help out too, it’s going to be a team effort,” Osabuohien said.
The Gold-Blue scrimmage to tip off the Mountaineers basketball season will take place on Friday at the Coliseum at 7 p.m.
(Top Photo: Dale Sparks)