Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Nathan Adrian: The heart and soul of WVU hoops

Nathan Adrian (11) battles TCU's Kenrich Williams (34) for a loose ball in the Mountaineers' win over the Horned Frogs on Saturday, January 7, 2017.  (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Nathan Adrian (11) battles TCU’s Kenrich Williams (34) for a loose ball in the Mountaineers’ win over the Horned Frogs on Saturday, January 7, 2017.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Nathan Adrian is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the West Virginia University basketball team.

Even during a scoring slump, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward hustles all over the court making plays.

“He hasn’t shot the ball very well as of late, but we know how capable he is of making shots,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “He never really drove it to the basket until the end of last year and this year – he was really a catch and shoot guy – and I think he has expanded his game. He doesn’t do things that he’s not capable of doing very often. I think that’s the battle. Do what you can do. Don’t try to do things you can’t do.”

And when the Mountaineers needed him most, Adrian broke out of his slump and put up a career-high 22 points in WVU’s 89-68 win over No.1 Baylor on Tuesday. The senior grabbed a team-best six boards against the Bears.

Nathan Adrian (11) celebrates WVU's victory over No.1 Baylor on Tuesday, January 10, 2016. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Nathan Adrian (11) celebrates WVU’s victory over No.1 Baylor on Tuesday, January 10, 2016.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

“He’s our leader,” junior guard Jevon Carter said. “He can do whatever they ask him to do. He can shoot, pass, rebound and he can make plays for other people. He’s our go-to guy.”

The Morgantown native is always all over the place, diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds, making passes, putting pressure on the opponents and anything else he needs to do for his team.

The Morgantown High alum is averaging 28.2 minutes a game, more than anyone else on WVU’s roster. As of late, Adrian has been playing more than 30 minutes a game.

While Adrian may not be the sharpest player on the court, he is clearly one of the key pieces to this Mountaineers basketball team.

Adrian is second in the conference in offensive rebounds, grabbing a total of 53 boards this season. He averages 10.7 points, 6.5 rebounds.

Adrian is one of the reasons WVU’s press has been so successful. He has 22 steals and forced 19 turnovers through 16 games.

Nathan Adrian (11) boxes out TCU's Kenrich Williams (34) during the Mountaineers' win over the Horned Frogs on Saturday, January 7, 2017.  (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Nathan Adrian (11) boxes out TCU’s Kenrich Williams (34) during the Mountaineers’ win over the Horned Frogs on Saturday, January 7, 2017.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

“He has really good feet,” Huggins said. “His best attribute is his ability to guard in the open court. When you think about who he’s guarding, he’s guarding all of the point guards, really, in our league, and he’s doing a heck of a job staying in front of them. He’s done a heck of a job turning them (over). He’s done a heck of a job leading them into double teams.”

While the senior may not lead the league in points, rebounds, blocked shots or steals, he is the wheel that keeps the Mountaineers turning.

And one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game thinks highly of Adrian because of his work ethic and all he does for his team.

“He’s a heck of a player. If he’s not one of the best players in this league I want to see the guys better than him,” Huggins said.

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