West Virginia men’s basketball head coach Bob Huggins thinks next season could be a successful one with the amount of returning players combined with the quality of recruiting class coming in.
“We’re actually in great shape,” Huggins said about his team. “There’s probably very few people that have the number of guys coming back (and) returning that we have.”
After this season’s unexpected end, only four Mountaineers have departed — three of which were seniors. Only one of those players was a starter last season in senior Jermaine Haley. The three seniors have already been replaced with three newcomers in freshmen Taj Thweatt and Isaiah Cottrell going along with junior college transfer Kedrian Johnson.
“They all have done really well,” Huggins said referring to the newcomers. “They’ve all done well academically. They’re all chomping at the bit to get here and get started.”
With the transfer of sophomore guard Brandon Knapper, WVU still has one scholarship available that they could offer if they choose to do so. A route that could be taken to fill the gap is the transfer portal, which the coaches have been watching closely. Huggins isn’t eager to try and give out that scholarship so quickly, however.
“I think with us it’s important that if we take another guy, that he fits,” Huggins explained. “They’ve been a great group. They’ve been terrific on and off the floor and they’re really excited about being able to get back. They enjoy being around each other and enjoy being at West Virginia.”
Last season, when the Mountaineers were at their best, the inside tandem of Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe were playing well. For most of the season, WVU didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter, so relying on those two for points as well as anchors on the defensive end made the Mountaineers one of the toughest teams to match up against at times.
“I think the biggest thing was that Derek moves his feet so well,” Huggins said. “Oscar got better and better and better as the season went along to where we could switch with him and do some things with him.”
A lot of the time the tandem started together and finished together, but Huggins doesn’t mind separating them if it comes down to it.
“I think we can be good whether we play both of them together or whether we don’t play both of them together,” Huggins said about the lineup. “We’ve got guys. We’ve got to be able to have guys play to the best of their ability.”
Tshiebwe has entered his name into the NBA draft for evaluation, but Huggins expects him to make an educated decision on whether he will return to school or play professionally. No matter his decision, this next team will be deep, talented and more experienced on paper. It will just be a matter of whether they play well together once the ball is in the air.