(‘3 Guys Before the Game’ podcast with Chase Harler)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Most college basketball players end their careers with a loss. Chase Harler’s final game in a Mountaineer uniform ended a signature victory over No. 4 Baylor and was preceded by a marriage proposal to his fiancee Lindsey Baker.
“I was nervous, my hand was shaking,” Harler said. “We have rewatched the video probably a hundred times. I look pretty cool, calm and collected.”
The two have been inseparable since their days at Wheeling Central Catholic High School. Both Harler and Baker earned multiple all-state honors for the Maroon Knights and their first date had a basketball connection.
“We went to different middle schools. The way she started dating me was, I told her if I dunked against her team she had to date me. I missed the dunk, but I sweet talked her into starting to date me.”
Early introduction at Wheeling Central
Harler was an integral part of a Wheeling Central team that advanced to the state semifinals in all four seasons from 2013-2016. The Maroon Knights won the 2014 Class A state championship and lost in the final the next two years. Harler was able to reward head coach Mel Stephens for the patience he showed in Harler’s first season.
“I give him so much credit because my freshman year, he gave me the opportunity to play varsity after the fifth or sixth game. I had more turnovers than assists my freshman year. And he still let me play almost every minute of every game.
“He let me play through my mistakes. Without him allowing me to play through my mistakes so early in my career, I don’t think I would have turned into the player I am now.”
Adjustments to the college game
As an in-state scholarship recruit, external expectations led to internal pressure for Harler. He played just 95 minutes in his freshman season.
“Coming from Wheeling Central, the coaches were tough on me but I had the ball in my hands 85 percent of the game. I scored a lot of points and kind of was ‘the man’. Coming to WVU, I understood I wasn’t going to be that. But it was an ego check for me, honestly.”
A year later, Harler appeared in 33 games but he averaged just 10 minutes and 1.6 points per contest.
“It was definitely a tough time because I wasn’t playing a lot and in practice Huggins is getting on me a decent amount. I took it super, super personal those first two years.”
After his sophomore season, Harler considered transferring. A conversation with Bob Huggins eventually led him to remain a Mountaineer.
“The biggest thing he said was, ‘I don’t want you to leave. I think you can contribute in the next two years. We obviously like having you around. You are a great part of our team.’
“That was probably one of the first times where I felt like he did care about me. He cared about me my whole career but I wasn’t seeing it like that. I think that was kind of an eye opening experience for me.”
As a junior, Harler settled into a role and posted career highs in points per game and minutes.
“Something kind of flipped the switch halfway through my junior year where I tried my hardest not to care about what other people were saying about me. I just focused on the team and myself.
“I wish I would have figured it out much earlier. That is probably my only regret.”
Next up in 2021
Harler, fellow northern panhandle product Logan Routt and Jermaine Haley are leaving the WVU program as graduates but Harler believes the team is well-equipped to last well into the month of March next season.
“The nucleus guys coming back are definitely going to be great. I am expecting a lot out of Sean McNeil this year. He showed signs of what he can do but at times he just wasn’t hitting shots.
“Deuce (McBride) showed what he can do this year. Having Oscar (Tshiebwe) and D.C. (Derek Culver) back are going to be huge. I definitely expect a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully win the Big 12 Tournament.”
Entering the business world
With his bachelor’s degree in general business in hand and with studies towards his masters degree in underway, Harler is entering the business world. He will join forces with Wheeling native and longtime friend Boyd Bibey to launch ‘Built Different’. It is a basketball skills development business with a focus on mental health.
“Especially in the Ohio Valley, mental health isn’t talked about enough. I experienced some low points in my basketball career and I had people help me out. I think the biggest thing was a kid who is living out his dream at WVU, he is not allowed to go through those things. He is not allowed to complain because this is his dream. I think I really struggled with that.”