After four successful seasons with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. killing it in the backcourt and serving as prime examples of leadership for the Mountaineers, head coach Bob Huggins was found missing them deeply during the 2018-19 season.
As the season came about, fans, pundits and spectators set expectations rather high for the squad and the season ended quite terribly. However, there also were a few key takeaways from the dreadful year.
Huggins failed to inherit a leader out of Esa Ahmad and Beetle Bolden was injured far too long to serve as a leader on the floor. Therefore, high school sensations Jordan McCabe, Derek Culver, and Emmitt Matthews Jr. didn’t have the luxury of learning from the best and brightest players that Carter and Miles Jr. were. The three stars had to learn quickly. Unfortunately, but at the same time, fortunately, the trio began to develop a much better understanding and grasp for the college-style as the season’s end neared.
With a few great freshmen arriving in Morgantown this fall, the expectations for the team are set pretty high on the totem pole yet again. With such said, no matter how many great players that have arrived for this upcoming season, the season’s outcome hangs from the shoulders of the three most critical guys on the Mountaineer squad.
First of all, sophomore point guard McCabe has to begin the season strong. McCabe must serve as the floor general, playmaker and an offensive magician that he played as during his senior season of high school basketball. He’s going to have to keep his turnovers per game down to a minimum, and both his assists and points per game to double digits. If McCabe plays well this year, the team will feed off of his energy and they’ll play great together as one entity on the offensive side of the floor.
Secondly, sophomore forward Matthews Jr. must use his length to the best of his ability both offensively and defensively. Matthews Jr. is gifted offensively with a smooth jump shot, crisp handle, and an all-around good feel for the game. He’s going to play best when he gets out with the ball in transition, moves without the ball and gets quick, open looks for a three-point jump shot. Along with that, Matthews should score a generous amount of points working off down screens near the baseline.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Culver must play even better than he played during his unremarkable freshman season. Culver led the Big 12 Conference in rebounds and he also scored a hefty amount of points per game. If Culver does what he does best, which is to do the dirty work, finesse other big men with his above-average footwork on the low block and protect the rim with his high upper body strength, he’ll help the team immensely. Not only will Culver help the team but he’ll also lead college basketball as one of the best big men in the country.
WVU has high expectations set for their upcoming basketball season. As a team that recruited Oscar Tshiebwe, one of the best big men in high school basketball last season, and Shane McNeil, a pure sniper, all they need now is to have three guys that are willing to lead by example. McCabe, Matthews Jr., and Culver must serve as the leaders on and off the court. If they do just that, and they perform as well as they did at times last season, then the sky is the limit for the Mountaineers’ 2019-20 basketball season.
Cover Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS