MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The recruiting battles are yearly for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.
It’s phone calls and visits and trips across the country to scout what probably seems like a rotating door of players after 36 seasons.
“You’re happy with each one you get,” Huggins said. “But, you’re happy for different reasons.”
It’s likely that 2019 five-star recruit Oscar Tshiebwe made Huggins and his coaching staff very happy Saturday when the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward announced he would be attending West Virginia next season.
Tshiebwe, a native of Congo, who now attends Kennedy Catholic in Hermitage, Pa., chose the Mountaineers over finalists Kentucky, Baylor and Illinois.
Tshiebwe announced his decision on his twitter page.
He shot up the national recruiting rankings this summer, playing with ITPS Wildcats, an AAU team based in Pennsylvania.
In March, Tshiebwe was not ranked, but by last month, had shot up to No. 21 overall by Rivals.com.
That ranking makes him the second-highest recruit to commit to WVU — after Devin Ebanks, who was ranked 11th by Rivals.com in 2008 — since Bob Huggins took over as coach in 2007.
He is also ranked No. 32 overall nationally by ESPN.
Tshiebwe was first offered a scholarship by West Virginia in the summer of 2016, following Tshiebwe’s freshman season.
WVU assistant Ron Everhart first saw Tshiebwe while recruiting forward Maceij Bender and the relationship between WVU and Tshiebwe began there.
Through the years, Huggins said that changes in culture and technology have made an impact in the recruiting game.
In the end, though, relationships and trust matter, Huggins said. It’s the ability to look each other in the eye and create a mutual bond.
“I’ve always thought and I still think we always get guys because of relationships,” Huggins said days before Tshiebwe’s announcement. “The relationships I have with the people in their ears; the relationships [WVU assistants] Larry [Harrison], Ronnie and Erik [Martin] had with them.”
As with any recruiting pitch, Huggins, who can’t officially speak about Tshiebwe until he signs his national letter-of-intent, said he leaned on West Virginia’s practice facility and the family atmosphere that surrounds the facility with any number of former players who come in to work out.
“But, it still comes down to relationships,” Huggins said. “In the end, there is a lot of crazy stuff that goes on. There are a lot of things said and done that are crazy. You have to have somebody on the inside that kind of says, ‘Wait a minute, let’s sit down and talk again about what’s really important.”
Tshiebwe joins a recruiting class that includes Miles McBride, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Cincinnati.
Esa Ahmad is the only scholarship senior on the team, but WVU junior forward Sagaba Konate is projected in several mock drafts as a 2019 NBA Draft first-round pick and could leave school early.
The highest-ranked recruits for West Virginia men’s basketball since Bob Huggins became coach in 2007. Oscar Tshiebwe, who committed to WVU for 2019 is ranked No. 21 overall nationally by Rivals.com and No. 32 by ESPN:
Devin Ebanks: (2008 class); No. 11 by Rivals.com; not ranked in top 100 by ESPN.
Kevin Jones: (2008); No. 34 by ESPN; No. 73 by Rivals.com.
Truck Bryant: (2008); No. 90 by ESPN; not ranked by Rivals.com
Dalton Pepper: (2009); No. 96 by ESPN; No. 139 by Rivals.com.
Deniz Kilicli: (2009); No. 47 by ESPN; not ranked by Rivals.com
Danny Jennings: (2009) No. 60 by ESPN; not ranked by Rivals.com
Noah Cottrill: (2010); No. 73 by ESPN; No. 82 by Rivals.com
Jabarie Hinds: (2011); No. 93 by Rivals.com; not ranked by ESPN.
Tommie McCune: (2011); No. 102 by Rivals.com; not ranked by ESPN.
Elijah Macon: (2012); 45 by ESPN; 56 by Rivals.com
Devin Williams: (2013); No. 42 by ESPN; No. 64 by Rivals.com
Esa Ahmad: (2015); No. 46 by ESPN; No. 72 by Rivals.com.
Sagaba Konate: (2016); No. 137 by Rivals.com; not ranked by ESPN.
Derek Culver: (2018); No. 63 by ESPN; No. 89 by Rivals.com
Jordan McCabe: (2018); No. 86 by ESPN; No. 147 by Rivals.com.
Emmitt Matthews Jr.: (2018); No. 125 by Rivals.com; not ranked by ESPN.
Trey Doomes: (2018); No. 142 by Rivals.com; not ranked by ESPN.