WVU Football is getting all the attention for their 6-0 start but in the midst of that, Bob Huggins and the Mountaineer basketball team fired up their season a few weeks ago when they kicked off practice for the 2016-17 season.
With a new season, comes higher expectations especially from head coach Bob Huggins. “Consistency has to become imperative especially in a league like the Big 12.” WVU lost 3 key players from last season’s team but have replaced them with 3 newcomers that will play pivotal roles from the opening tip of the season. Let’s take a look at those newcomers and how they will fit into Press Virginia.
The top freshman in the Mountaineers 2016 class is PF Maciej Bender of Mountain Mission (VA) who comes to WVU ranked as the 30th best PF in the 2016 class. Bender has the rare size (6’10 235 lbs.) and shooting skill that WVU fans haven’t seen since Kevin Pittsnogle’s time at WVU. The biggest difference that I see in the two is the defense and rebounding ability that Bender will bring to Bob Huggins team. I fully expect to see Bender get early playing time this season as WVU attempts to replace the departed Devin Williams however Huggins did say that Bender will need to get up to speed in the Mountaineers scheme since he enrolled late due to being part of the Polish national team this summer (8.3 PPG 7.7 RPG).
Another newcomer that will attempt to replace the production lost by the departed Devin Williams is Kennedy Catholic (PA) PF Sagaba Konate. Konate has the looks of a Bob Huggins big man with great size (6’8 240 lbs.), toughness, and relentless rebounding ability that has him the favorite to replace Devin Williams in the Mountaineers rotation. Konate’s big senior season saw his rating jumps (15.5 PPG 11.1 RPG 2.2 BPG) and he hasn’t let up since arriving at WVU. “Konate wasn’t a top 100 recruit but wait till you see him on the court this season,” Huggins said when asked about Sagaba.
West Virginia added a guard in the 2016 class with the commitment of Wheeling Central SG Chase Harler who was rated the top player in the state of West Virginia for the 2016 class. Harler has some of the traits that WVU lost when Jaysean Paige graduated last season so Harler could have a key role this upcoming season for Bob Huggins team. Harler was known for his scoring ability at Wheeling Central (25.2 PPG) but his defense might be the strongest part of his game which is a big reason Coach Huggins recruited him so heavily.
Two more recruits that WVU fans haven’t got to see in action yet are PG James Bolden and PF Lamont West, both redshirted last season for different reasons. Bolden tore his ACL before the season started and missed all of last season while West injured his ribs just before the season and Coach Huggins felt it best to redshirt him to allow him to get healthy along with adjust to the college level. Both will play key roles this upcoming season for the Mountaineers with West (15.8 PPG 7.7 RPG 2.6 BPG as a senior) being in part of the equation to replace Devin Williams while Bolden is the favorite to replace the production lost at the guard position with the graduation of Jaysean Paige.