MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From the first time West Virginia freshman Teddy Allen faced Jevon Carter in open gym, he realized the national defensive player of the year was full-time tenacious.

“I actually asked him, ‘How do you be defending like that?’ and he said that’s just how he’s always been,” Allen said. “He’s actually a talented defender. He’s skilled like that.”

Teammate Lamont West agrees there’s something innate about the way Carter prods and pokes and pilfers, a natural-born defender in the same vein some scorers are gifted at shooting.

“He’s something real on defense,” said West, who learned two years ago not to get cute against Carter.

“You can’t do no type of moves in front of Jevon. If you do any move he’s going to steal it automatically.”

West recounted a rare practice session when Carter wasn’t playing his best — at least not until challenged.

“He was guarding Beetle and he wasn’t really guarding for real, so Coach Huggs yelled at him, ‘Why don’t you play some defense?!?! Then he stole it from Beetle like five times in a row.”

Carter recorded five steals Thursday night during a 102-69 win over NJIT, giving him a career total 254 to break a school record that stood for nearly 35 seasons.

He’s on pace to surpass 300, and should West Virginia make a lengthy postseason run, Carter could crack the NCAA’s all-time top-25 list. (Gary Payton sits 25th currently with 321.)

Carter said the WVU record doesn’t mean much now, “but I’m sure it will mean a lot when I’m done.” He likely won’t be done for a while given the way he’s evolving as a scorer while maintaining his defensive intensity.

While newcomers like Allen seek defensive tips from Carter, they’re not sure they can ever match his ability to anticipate a ballhandler’s next move.

“I can take away something from his technique,” Allen said, “but that boy is different on defense.”

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