MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—The West Virginia University basketball team is preparing for their summer tournament in the Bahamas in a few weeks, but two significant parts of last season’s team are gone.
Guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne graduated and the Mountaineers will have to find a way to replace them. Not an easy task.
Tarik Phillip is likely to take over at the point. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior stepped up for West Virginia during its post season run.
Phillip averaged 4.1 points in 12. 9 minutes a game, but it was Phillip who really helped the Mountaineers advance past Buffalo in the NCAA tournament. He dropped a clutch three with 28 seconds left while the shot clock was winding down in the first round game.
Phillip is a strong penetrator and a good ball handler. He has vastly improved over the summer
“Tarik’s played well,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “Tarik’s played real well. You know I think every day that he and (Esa) Ahmad are out there they understand a little more they get a little better.”
Jevon Carter is another option the Mountaineers have to play the point. When Staten and Browne got injured, Carter filled the void and even carried West Virginia at times.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard averaged 8.1 points and 2.3 rebounds a game. He finished as the team’s third leading scorer, even after a slump at the end of the season-making 8-of-45 over his final six games including 4-of-26 from beyond-the-arc.
Carter is a defensive force. He strips ballhandlers, poaches passes and all around excels at the press. He earned All-Big 12 defensive honors during his freshman campaign.
However, if West Virginia always plays Carter at guard, its perimeter shooting would suffer.
“We can play JC there (point guard),” Huggins said. “JC can obviously play there but sometimes we don’t want him to play there. He is our best perimeter shooter so we need to get him off the ball some so we can run some things for him to get shots.”
Some believed Daxter Miles Jr. was poised to take over at point guard, but Huggins doesn’t feel the same.
“I was never looking at Dax,” Huggins joked. “We would have a mutiny. No one else would ever get the ball.”
Even though Staten and Browne leave big shoes to fill, the Mountaineers will have the talent to build off of last season’s success.