MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia University’s Tarik Phillip stepped up his game during the Mountaineers’ Sweet 16 run last season. The junior guard will be looked upon to help WVU run deeper into the post season.
Phillip averaged 4.1 points per game and shot 46.9 percent from the field as a sophomore. It was at the end of the season where he stepped up his game.
Phillip scored nine points against Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament, including a late 3 to help the Mountaineers win. He was an unlikely hero who wasn’t even supposed to be on the court.
This year WVU will turn to the 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard to help Jevon Carter run the point. While Carter will likely start, Phillip will likely see significant playing time.
“I think me and Jevon could get it done at the point guard position,” Phillip said. “Between me and him handling the rock, we both bring something different to the table. So I feel we will be ready to do that.”
Phillip believes that him and Carter both bring something different to the table that could benefit the Mountaineers.
“I feel like when he (Jevon) comes with the ball screen sometimes he is able to shoot it,” Phillip said. “When I come with the ball screen more times I look to penetrate and look for my players. I need to come with the ball screen as a threat, as more of a three point threat.”
While Phillip is expected to play a large role this upcoming season, he
still has some learning to do.
“I am just learning the game a little bit more,” Phillip said. “I feel like when we were running pick and rolls and things like that, where the help is coming from and where the ball needs to go so it hits the open man at the right time.”
Phillip may not be the flashiest player on the court, but he has the work ethic to become a star.
“He has worked really hard on shooting the ball,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “He has worked really, really hard at shooting the ball. He has been in the gym more than anybody has. I think his understanding of being a point guard is so much better than what it was a year ago.”
Phillip thinks he has a better knowledge of the game this season and that has slowed things down for him.
“The year before, I felt like I was rushing, not knowing where I was going so that didn’t help at all either,” he said. “But now that I know where people are and things like that, I feel like it (the game) has slowed down.”
Huggins knew from Phillip’s junior college days that he had the potential to be special.
“Tarik is one of those guys though that his junior college coach said we can go in the gym and you could pick any five guys and I’ll take Tarik and whatever four are left an you’ll still win,” Huggins said. “That’s when I said we got to get this guy. But there are guys that just win and I think he is one of those guys.”
In last week’s Blue-Gold Debut, Phillip scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in hopefully a preview of what the junior has to offer this season.