MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Coach Bob Huggins said the eligibility saga of junior college signee Jonathan Holton is “out of my control,” suggesting the power forward could be headed for a redshirt season.
With Holton potentially shelved alongside freshman recruit Elijah Macon, another power forward, that would leave West Virginia with only nine scholarship players this season and particularly thin around the basket.
Th 6-foot-7 Holton, dismissed from Rhode Island amid legal trouble in 2012, played last season at Palm Beach (Fla.) State Community College and reportedly spent the summer there completing credits. He enrolled at WVU in August and has been practicing with the team, unlike Macon, but hasn’t been cleared to play in games.
“I don’t know what I can tell you,” Huggins said Tuesday. “I don’t want to screw him up or us up. I guess we’ll find out (about his eligibility) when they tell us.”
A negative outcome for Holton apparently isn’t one that could be rectified with spring-semester eligibility. “He wouldn’t be able to play at all—we’d redshirt him,” Huggins said.
After the first week of practices, teammates offered strong reviews about Holton’s impact—not surprising considering he averaged 17.5 points and 14.1 rebounds at Palm Beach State after being an Atlantic 10 all-rookie selection (10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds) at Rhode Island.
“Holton, whew, he’s going to be a long, athletic defender and rebounder,” said Mountaineers junior forward Kevin Noreen. “He’s 6-7, but he plays like he’s 6-9 or 6-10.”
Without Holton and Macon, WVU’s inside muscle would be limited to the 6-10 Noreen and two 6-9 freshmen, Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins. Whereas Williams is broad-chested and physically imposing, Watkins is lanky and slender and could have benefitted from a redshirt season.
Two other 6-9 newcomers—Nathan Adrian and Rémi Dibo—are primarily wing players who could struggle with low-post defense.
“It’s going to come down to mental toughness, because we can’t get in foul trouble. We’re going to have to play our minutes wisely,” said Noreen.
“There’s still a difference in smart fouls and dumb fouls, and I was a culprit of that last year at times. So were some of our other big guys.”
Noreen was disqualified only once last season, but his 75 fouls were third-most on the team and his fouling ratio was second-highest with one committed every 7.5 minutes. Aaric Murray fouled out four times and committed 102 fouls (one every 6.09 minutes), while Deniz Kilicli was DQ’d three times and was called for 90 fouls (one every 8.32 minutes).
“You know, if a guy’s got a layup, you don’t need to waste a foul,” Noreen said. “It’s about just being smart with the five fouls you do have. For me, it’s more setting screens, making sure my feet are set and not moving to get that cheap foul.”
West Virginia opens the season by hosting Mount St. Mary’s one month from today on Nov. 8