BUFFALO–Night in and night out, there is always one player on the court that gives his all for the West Virginia University basketball team.
Whether his team is winning or losing, Nathan Adrian wears his heart on his sleeve. He is usually diving for loose balls or grinding in some other fashion.
During his final campaign with the Mountaineers, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward has developed into a steadfast athlete and a team leader. He is averaging 9.9 points, 2.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds.
Those numbers have drastically improved from his freshman season and even his junior. In 2015-16, Adrian averaged 4.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 assists.
“I’ve come a long way,” Adrian said. “We lost a lot of rebounding with Jon (Holton) and Devin (Williams) last year, so I knew someone had to step up and go get those, and I feel I’ve done a decent job at it.”
Against Bucknell on Thursday afternoon, the senior played an enormous role in WVU’s 86-80 victory. He tallied 12 points and grabbed 10 boards. Also, he dished out two assists, had one steal and three blocks.
Knowing this is his final hurrah in the old gold and blue, Adrian isn’t ready to hang up the shoes just yet. However, he wants to do right for his home state.
“Everyone in West Virginia supports us more than anything else,” he said. “So for me to win this for them.”
For outsiders of the state, they don’t know how much Mountaineer athletics mean to its people.
“That is our pro team in our state,” Adrian said.
Ironically, the Morgantown native gets to play for another West Virginia native and a coaching legend. Even though, Bob Huggins comes off a hard-nosed coach but with his persona aside, he means so much to his players.
“I like that kind of coaching style,” Adrian said. “He’s only that hard on us because he cares and wants us to win so bad. I mean he loves us more than any coach probably would. So you got to take it the way he says it to you and know he’s just saying it because he cares.”
Arguably, the WVU head coach echoes a comparable sentiment regarding Adrian. Throughout the entire season Huggins has praised the Morgantown High School alum for his work ethic and leadership role.
And no one can deny Adrian’s durability.
“He had a cyst in his wrist, his shooting wrist, his right wrist, his sophomore year and didn’t shoot the ball very well, which nobody would have and he didn’t tell anybody about it until the conference tournament,” Huggins said. “And I think he — you know, people expected, you know, more, or making shots and they had no idea he was hurt. I had no idea he was hurt. And he’s banged up now but he just — you know, he fights through things. He’s a great competitor and a great person.”
Ultimately there is one thing that both are missing from their resumes, a National Championship.
One thing is for certain, Adrian will give every ounce to try and bring that home to his home state and his head coach.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS