Thursday, December 8, 2016

WVU’s Ahmad learned from freshman season

Esa Ahmad guards an Oklahoma guard during WVU's victory during the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Esa Ahmad guards an Oklahoma guard during WVU’s victory during the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Esa Ahmad’s freshman campaign was a learning experience and now he’s ready to emerge as one of West Virginia University’s stars.

Last season was an up and down one for the Ahmad. After being a star at Shaker Heights High, the Cleveland native averaged just 4.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest for the Mountaineers.

Something he wasn’t used to but Ahmad never let it bring him down.

“Everybody was just telling me to go out there and play,” he said. “Devin (Williams), Jaysean (Paige), Tarik (Phillip) just told me that. Towards the middle of the season I started doing that and it carried over.”

For the 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward, the speed of the game was the biggest challenge. Ahmad turned to his teammates for guidance.

“Learning from Jaysean and Devin. Learning the spots, learning where to be at on the court,” Ahmad said. “It was big for my freshman year.”

Esa Ahmad drives to the basket during WVU's victory during the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Esa Ahmad drives to the basket during WVU’s victory during the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

The knowledge he took from WVU’s leaders has made him a better player. He learned to be patient and let things just fall in place.

“I feel like at the beginning of the season I was trying to force it but as the season came around longer I feel like I got comfortable,” Ahmad said.

In the Mountaineers loss to Stephen F. Austin, Ahmad scored 10 points and finally looked like it was all coming together.

Now, the sophomore is ready to fill WVU’s offensive void. He’s spent a lot of time in the gym working on his game.

“He’s a much better shooter now,” senior forward Nathan Adrian said. “He’s been working hard all summer. I feel like everyone has but as long as he plays as hard as he’s capable of playing, he’s going to be an extremely talented player.”

Ahmad knows with the loss of bigs Jonathan Holton and Williams that head coach Bob Huggins will look for him to step up his game on the boards.

“Me and coach just talk about it all the time,” he said. “He’s looking for me to be more aggressive and rebound more.”

Esa Ahmad shoots a jumper during WVU's loss to Kansas during the finals of the Big 12 Tournament. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Esa Ahmad shoots a jumper during WVU’s loss to Kansas during the finals of the Big 12 Tournament.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Huggins believes consistency is the key to Ahmad’s success this year.

“I think be more consistent in every phase,” Huggins said. “I think he had to get more consistent in his energy level, more consistent shooting the ball. I think he will pass it better because his understanding is better of what we do and where people are going to come open and things. He’s come back much more skilled.”

Ahmad is ready to embrace his role this season and make his presence known on the court.

“Everything is more natural for me now,” he said. “Me taking more of an aggressive role will be better for the team.

 

Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS

 

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