‘Press Virginia’ has waves of bodies but inexperienced backcourt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Four hundred thirty seven, that’s the number of 3-pointers Jevon Carter missed during his West Virginia basketball career.

It is nothing more than an oddball stat kept in the school record books that showed just how confident the now-Memphis Grizzlies guard was.

Starting Saturday, when the Mountaineers begin practices for the 2018-19 season, Bob Huggins would likely take every one of those 437 misses just to have Carter around a little bit longer.

Huggins and West Virginia will be chasing their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, but will do so with an interesting roster built around strength and size in the frontcourt and a lot of inexperience in the backcourt.

Division I schools are permitted 30 practices over a 42-day period leading up to the regular season.

It’s not just a matter of replacing Carter — the school’s all-time leader in steals who also added 1,758 points and 559 assists over his career. West Virginia also saw senior Daxter Miles Jr. graduate.

First, the good news: Sagaba Konate opted to withdraw from NBA Draft consideration and returned for his junior season. Esa Ahmad also returns with 89 games of experience under his belt and Logan Routt’s 6-foot-11 frame saw action in 31 games last season.

They will anchor a front line that will also include a now-healthy Lamont West, Wesley Harris, who started all 37 games last season, as well as highly-recruited freshmen Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews Jr. and junior-college recruit Andrew Gordon.

In Huggins’ first 11 seasons at West Virginia, he may not have had this combination of size, experience and athleticism among the forwards.

Which brings us to the guards, where “Beetle” Bolden and Chase Harler have combined to play in 113 games, but neither averaged more than 18 minutes per game or was called upon to carry the team.

Former South Charleston star Brandon Knapper has had to overcome a serious knee injury and a blood clot issue just to be cleared for action this season.

As preseason practice begins, the door of opportunity will be wide open for junior-college signee Jermaine Haley and freshmen Trey Doomes and Jordan McCabe.

How quickly they can adapt to the speed of Division I hoops will be a focus even after the regular season begins Nov. 9 against Buffalo.

While WVU lacks experience with the guards, the Mountaineers do have numbers.

The option of remaining “Press Virginia” in the post-Carter years is out there, because Huggins has enough guys to keep rotating in to stay fresh.

And he still has Konate on the back end protecting the rim.

Mixing it all together, the Mountaineers are projected as a preseason top 20 team and will likely be picked either second or third in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll, with Kansas being the favorite.

If West Virginia is in the preseason AP Top 25, it will mark the 55th consecutive week the Mountaineers have been nationally ranked.

The streak began in November 2015, and it is one week shy of the school record of 56 weeks from March 1956 to March 1960.

Under Huggins, West Virginia has been ranked in the AP poll for 98 weeks.

More Sports

High School Sports
After fifth consecutive semifinal appearance, Bluefield eyes return to Wheeling Island
Fred Simon enters his 37th season leading the Beavers.
August 8, 2022 - 8:30 am
High School Sports
19 starters return for Independence after a run to the Super Six in 2021
The Patriots finished as the Class AA runners-up last fall with an 11-1 record.
August 7, 2022 - 10:00 am
High School Sports
MetroNews Classics: Webster County vs Parkersburg Catholic (2019) & North Marion vs Capital (1999)
August 7, 2022 - 9:21 am
Notebook: Week 1 of WVU training camp concludes Sunday; evaluations set to begin
The Mountaineers will go through their first practice in full pads on Sunday.
August 6, 2022 - 4:09 pm