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Freshman Class Has a Chance For Immediate Impact

With the West Virginia men’s basketball team set to tip off their season this Friday against Akron in an exhibition game, it’s time to take a look at the incoming commits the Mountaineers will head into the new season with under their wing.

The WVU coaching staff has been fairly solid recently in going out and recruiting high school and junior college athletes as well as seeking out transfers which may prove to be another big aspect of this year’s team.

The four commitments that West Virginia was able to secure for their 2021 team are forwards Jamel King and James Okonkwo, alongside guards Seth Wilson and Kobe Johnson.

“We just don’t have a lot of veteran guys that played a lot of minutes coming back much,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “There’s a lot of unknowns. I think it’s probably fair to say that they possibly could make up for bad defense because they shoot the ball.”

King comes from Bella Vista Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he served as a reliable three-point shooter and has been compared to current Mountaineer Jalen Bridges for his consistency from beyond the arc. While playing at Bella Vista, the 6-foot 7-inch forward sunk 16 points per game while going 53 percent from three-point distance.

Prior to taking his basketball skills to prep school in Arizona, King played basketball at his original high school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he averaged 23 points his senior year of high school ball.

The second forward of this year’s West Virginia commits includes Maidenhead, England, native, James Okonkwo. The former Beckley Prep player came from his home country in Europe after graduating from Furze Platt Senior School in Maidenhead.

247 Sports gave Okonkwo a three-star rating coming out of prep basketball as the forward also held offers from Montana State and Rutgers which he turned down to come play in Morgantown. The Mountaineer unfortunately suffered a random foot injury in practice that will look to keep him out for up to possibly a month and a half.

“The way he was playing before he got hurt, he was going to play. He’s quicker off the floor than our other guys. The plan all along was to redshirt him. That’s what his dad wants and that was kind of his mindset going in,” Huggins said. “He shocked me. He was a lot better than what I saw on film.” 

The pair of guards the Mountaineers were able to secure before heading into this season both hail from the state that lies north east of West Virginia in Ohio. While Wilson comes from Lorain, Ohio, outside of Cleveland. Johnson will travel south from Canton, Ohio.

While Wilson played his high school days in his home town of Lorain, he was ultimately named Lorain County Mr. Basketball his senior year of high school after averaging 22.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Wilson’s junior season also saw the 6-foot 1-inch guard lead his Lorain squad to an OHSAA regional semi-finals appearance.

Over in Canton, Johnson also enjoyed a successful high school career at Canton McKinley High School where he was named the Ohio Division I Player of the Year while averaging 20.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. The seven-foot wingspan guard also finished as his high school’s all-time leading scorer after draining 1,566 points.

“Kobe’s ball security might be the best of all of them, he’s a freshman but when you play at Canton McKinley you play pretty good competition, he’s probably a little more prepared for what was coming in compared to the other freshman,” Huggins said. “They play a great schedule there.”

The Mountaineers will host Akron on Friday, October 29 at 7 p.m. inside the Coliseum for a charity exhibition game.

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