MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The intrigue surrounding West Virginia’s injury report continues to grow as the Mountaineers close in on Big 12 play.
During a conference call Friday, Bob Huggins added junior forward Lamont West to the growing list of ailing players.
“He banged up his knee in practice,” Huggins said.
Huggins did not indicate if West, who leads the Mountaineers with 21 3-pointers, would be available for Sunday’s 2 p.m. tipoff against Lehigh.
WVU’s injury report already includes center Sagaba Konate, who is dealing with a right knee injury and is not expected to return until after conference play begins. Starting point guard Beetle Bolden is playing with an injured left shooting hand.
“It looks like a M*A*S*H ward in the training room right now,” Huggins said.
And all of that doesn’t top the list of problems for the Mountaineers (7-4), who will face a Lehigh (7-3) team that is off to its best start since 2012-13 and is shooting 45 percent from 3-point range. With an eye on Wednesday’s Big 12 opener against No. 11 Texas Tech, Huggins said the Mountaineers still have a long list of concerns.
“We’ve got so much stuff to get better at,” he said. “We’re trying to fix the [full-court] pressure, so that we can get something out of pressure, which we really haven’t gotten much out of other than maybe the Pitt game.
“We’re trying to fix our half-court man-to-man defense, which has been deplorable, and we’re trying to figure out ways that we can score.”
Other than that, everything else is dandy.
Well, not exactly.
West Virginia is still searching for someone to step up and become a leader of this team. Senior forward Esa Ahmad would be a likely candidate, but he was benched after playing just four minutes in last week’s 74-72 victory against Jacksonville State.
Huggins said the benching was a culmination of things since the start of the season, like leading the team with 32 turnovers or still taking 3-point shots while shooting only 19 percent from long range.
Huggins said Ahmad responded well in practice after returning from Christmas break.
“He does what he does,” Huggins said. “You worry about him sometimes defensively and then you look and he leads our team in deflections. He leads our team in steals. It’s not always done the way that you want it done, technically, but the bottom line is he’s leading us in every defensive category that we keep track of.”
The Mountaineers’ biggest concern is how to handle the center position while Konate is out.
Walk-on Logan Routt will likely get the start today, with freshman Derek Culver and sophomore Andrew Gordon coming off the bench.
Routt has the most experience, but is not a shot blocker like Konate.
Culver has the athleticism, but this will be just his second college game.
Gordon was limited in the preseason with his own knee injury and has been slow to adjust in his first season since coming from Northwest Florida State College, where he sat out last season with an injured knee.
“We’re trying to figure out how they can fit in the best,” Huggins said. “Take the Rhode Island game for instance: That showed Drew’s lack of experience. He’s only played basketball a couple of years. He gets a rebound and he starts walking with it — just habits you get when you haven’t played organized basketball. We’re trying to get him to understand a little bit better.
“And we’re trying to get Derrick back in. You can’t run sets with Derrick because he doesn’t know them, so we end up doing some other things that may not be working toward the strengths of the other guys.”