Huggins confident Oscar Tshiebwe will return to Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins isn’t losing sleep — or even interrupting his pandemic-induced marathon-watching of “Naked and Afraid” — to worry about whether Oscar Tshiebwe will be wearing a West Virginia uniform next season.

Tshiebwe entered his name in the NBA Draft pool last week, but left open the possibility of coming back to WVU after receiving feedback from league front offices. Huggins upgraded that status from “possibility” to “near certainty” in a Monday video conference with reporters.

“I fully expect we’re not going to have to worry about it,” Huggins said when asked what next season’s lineup would look like without Tshiebwe. “We’re bringing in three [new] guys, two of them can play up front. I’m not worried about any of that. I feel very confident Oscar will make an intelligent decision.”

Tshiebwe’s game is still extremely raw, and any team that drafted him would be making a bet based on his sheer athletic ability.

And therein lies the issue that hurts his draft stock.

Though no announcement has been made, the expectation is that the NBA will cancel this year’s scouting combine. Teams aren’t expected to conduct individual workouts or in-person interviews. That means everything would be based on tape and previous in-person scouting.

“The reality that everyone is having a hard time grasping is there is no exploratory [process],” Huggins said. “They’ll pool of general managers that will come up with a hypothetical deal of where they would be drafted. It won’t be anything of ‘You’ve got to work on that or work on this,’ which they got from the combine.

“That was the strength of the combine. They’d say ‘Son, you better work on your back-to-the-basket moves, you better work on pick-and-roll situations, you’ve got to be able to stay in front of a guard’… things that are applicable to them having success.

“Now they’ll just say hypothetically ‘you’ll be the 18th pick in the draft.’ What they don’t say is there may be seven Europeans that nobody knows about other than the NBA people coming over that will drop you seven more spots.

“This draft, you have less an idea where you’ll be drafted than any in a long time.”

That reality is part of the reason Huggins expects his full roster to be back next season.

Another is the relationship he has with Tshiebwe.

“Oscar’s going to listen to us,” Huggins said. “Oscar trusts us. And we’re not going to lead him down the wrong path.”

On top of that, Huggins indicated that Tshiebwe has the right people around him to make an informed decision.

“We’ve had guys who had the wrong people in their ears and they’ve made terrible decisions that cost them lucrative careers,” Huggins said, perhaps referencing his last African-born big man who pursued a professional future. “Because they listened to somebody that cared more about what they were gonna get out of it than what the player was gonna get out of it. That’s always what we guard against.”

Bob Huggins press conference

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