Following the departure of sophomore forward Oscar Tshiebwe from the West Virginia basketball program, head coach Bob Huggins now looks to replace a stalwart big man in his starting lineup.
It was announced that Tshiebwe would be stepping away from the WVU program due to personal issues and there was no time given to his return. Huggins cleared that up when speaking to media on Friday.
“Absolutely not,” Huggins said if Tshiebwe could return to the team this season. “No return. This didn’t catch me by surprise.”
With the news that hit the WVU program on Friday, Huggins was not in the mood to discuss too much about what led to Tshiebwe’s decision to step away from the program. West Virginia’s coach wants to focus more on the team that he has now without Tshiebwe.
“I don’t want to talk about Oscar (Tshiebwe),” Huggins said when asked about the departure of his sophomore forward. “I want to talk about our team that we have now.”
The Mountaineers already took a hit to the forward position with freshman Isaiah Cottrell injuring his Achilles tendon against Northeastern that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. Now, Huggins will look more to his available players which includes Gabe Osabuohien.
“Gabe (Osabuohien) has been extremely valuable in what he does,” Huggins said on Osabuohien’s play. “What Gabe does for us is better than any big we have. He’s not a guy that is hunting shots.”
Against Northeastern, redshirt freshman forward Jalen Bridges performed well for the Mountaineers which could propel him into Big 12 play. Huggins expects to utilize his shooting ability to spread the floor along with Emmitt Matthews Jr.
“What are we going to do moving forward? We're going to win more games," Huggins said. "I think this gives us an opportunity to spread the floor a little bit more. Guys like JB (Jalen Bridges) will be able to spread the floor and make shots."
The Mountaineers will not have long to develop their lineup as they head to Norman, Oklahoma, to face the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN2.