MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia University’s Esa Ahmad makes his debut at the Coliseum on Friday night in an exhibition game against Glenville State.
Fans believe that Ahmad may be something special. He averaged 23.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.6 steals per game as a senior at Shaker Heights High last season.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound freshman is just happy to be a Mountaineer. The decision to choose WVU over the other schools was simple for Ahmad.
“It was close to my family,” he said. “I love coach Huggs (Bob Huggins) and the staff. Coach (Ron) Everhart recruited me. They were always there from my 10th grade year all the way to my 12th grade. They were at every practice, every game. That was big for me. Me and Huggs always talked. He wanted me to play two or three, to use my versatility in the Big 12. That just really stuck with me.”
“Once I got here, I knew a lot of the guys,” Devin, Elijah, Amhad added. “That just sealed the deal for me.”
The journey to Morgantown was a long one for the freshman forward.
His academics weren’t quite up to par.
“It was big because of what I went through academically, just to get here,” Ahmad said. “It’s a blessing.”
The day the good new came was a happy moment for Ahmad.
“Actually, when they told me I was cleared to play, I was working on an online class,” he said. “I was so relieved, I shut everything down and ran outside.”
It was also a physical challenge for Ahmad to go from playing high school basketball to playing in the toughest conference in college hoops, the Big 12.
“Huggs talks about my versatility, I think that’s my biggest strength,” Ahmad said.” So I think I am a pretty good fit for this league.”
Learning the press isn’t easy, but Ahmad is managing.
“I’ve learned a lot, but just learning to stay on helps side, stay in line with the ball,” he said. “Just trying to take in as much as possible, but I think I have been managing pretty well.
Learning how to manage the conditioning aspect of college basketball was a challenge for the Cleveland, Ohio native.
“That was probably one of the most challenging parts,” Ahmad said. “I came in at about 17 percent body fat. About a month ago, I got weighed and was at about 11 percent. No telling where I am now.”
Going from 17 percent to 11 percent took a lot of discipline for Ahmad.
“I couldn’t drink a lot of juices,” he said. “I had to drink water, watch what I was eating. I couldn’t eat junk. No McDonalds on the late nights. So that was big for me. And running. I was running almost every other off day with (strength and conditioning) coach Andy (Kettler).”
Becoming academically eligible before WVU’s trip to the Bahamas really benefited Ahmad.
“It was big for me coming in here, trying to learn as much as you can,” he said. “Getting here as early as I could, it was big. This level is so many plays, so much to learn.”
Ahmad feels like he is fitting in well with his new teammates.
“I think I felt comfortable as soon as I committed,” he said. “Once I got here and finally got to see what it was like, I felt like I fit in pretty good. I just had to work to get my body where it needed to be and I got it there.”
Even though Ahmad’s WVU basketball journey is young, he loves playing for his new coach.
“It’s intense, but I love it,” he said. “He tries to get you better every day, just challenges you, is just a great coach.”