MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Junior college point guard Tarik Phillip followed through on his 72-hours-old commitment and submitted his national letter of intent to West Virginia on Wednesday.
Mountaineers coaches didn’t appear to be hand-wringing over the possibility of a last-minute flip, despite programs like Kansas, Memphis and Oklahoma State chasing Phillip.
His impact was huge at Independence (Kan.) Community College this season: 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, along with a Jayhawk Conference player of the year honor that was achieved despite appearing in only the final 18 games. (Watch Independence coach Tony Turner’s assessment of Phillip in the video above.)
“We are excited to be able to land a guard as talented as Tarik in the late signing period,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Every coach we talked to labeled Tarik as a winner. He gives us much-needed versatility in the backcourt with the ability to play both guard positions. We look for him to be very instrumental in our quest to become a great defensive team again.”
While Wednesday marked the first day of the NCAA’s spring signing period, recall that Huggins added two other guards during the early signing period: Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles.
“This class gives us a much-needed shot of athleticism on the perimeter, and a group of guards with tremendous versatility and the ability to play with or without the ball,” said Huggins. “This depth should provide us the ability to turn up the pressure defensively.”
Defense ranged from a concern to an outright disaster at times this past season, when West Virginia bottomed out the Big 12 in field-goal defense by allowing 44.5-percent shooting. Looking at the conference-only totals for the 18-game round-robin, the numbers were worse: 47.4 percent field-goal defense overall (still last) and 36.5-percent defense on 3-pointers, which ranked eighth.
With Phillip supplanting transfer Eron Harris, the roster appears to be settled for now, though the shuffling last year continued into mid-July).
Here’s an early guess at the starting five next November:
G: Juwan Staten
18.1 ppg, 5.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds
G: Terry Henderson
11.7 ppg, 2.7 rebounds, 37 percentt from 3
F: Remi Dibo
7.3 ppg, 3.1 rebs, 37 percent from 3
F: Jonathan Holton
ineligible in 2013-14
G: Elijah Macon
ineligible in 2013-14
And the top five off the bench:
G: Tarik Phillip
18.3 ppg at Independence C.C.
F: Devin Williams
8.4 ppg, 7.2 rebounds
F: Nathan Adrian
5.4 ppg, 2.9 rebs, 35 percent from 3
G: Gary Browne
5.9 ppg, 2.4 rebounds
F: Kevin Noreen
2.0 ppg, 2.7 rebounds
That second rotation doesn’t include the 6-9 Brandon Watkins, whose freshman season included flashes but ultimately concluded with him riding the bench. Nor does it make room for the newcomers Carter and Miles, combo-guard prospects who might be talented enough to get on the court, but would do so at the expense of a senior like Browne.