— Story by Taylor Kennedy
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2020-21 West Virginia basketball team is filled with new and old faces. Last season’s team saw three seniors graduate: Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler, and Logan Routt. This offseason, the WVU coaching staff went out and reloaded with fresh prospects.
This year’s recruiting class brings in players from around the world. There will be four new faces on this year’s roster. Jordan McCabe, rising junior, likes what he has seen so far from the new guys. McCabe was a guest on the CityNet Statewide Sportsline Friday night.
“Isaiah Cottrell is coming along really well. He has felt comfortable from day one. He has pushed our returning bigs Oscar [Tshiebwe] and Derek [Culver] to heights, to be honest, I did not think they could even reach. I am really excited about his contribution and really think he can step in,” says McCabe.
Cottrell is a Las Vegas, Nevada native spent last season with Huntington Prep. He is a four star recruit ranked 75th in the nation according to ESPN. Before choosing WVU, Cottrell held offers from eighteen other Division 1 schools, including Kansas, UCLA, and Virginia.
“Taj Thweatt has been a motor for us. A guy who gets up and down the floor. He is a West Virginia guy for sure. He belongs here. He fits right in,” says McCabe.
Thweatt is a Wildwood, New Jersey native who spent his high school career at Wildwood Catholic. He was listed as a three star recruit, and the 12th best player in New Jersey. His final four schools were WVU, Florida, Penn State, and Temple before ultimately choosing the Mountaineers last fall.
“Kedrian Johnson is lightning fast. He will be a huge addition to the backcourt because we rotate so many different guards. I am excited about him,” says McCabe.
Johnson is a junior college transfer from Temple College in Dallas, Texas. He comes in as a three star recruit according to 247Sports.com. 247Sports lists Johnson as the 17th-best JUCO prospect in this year’s class. He held offers from Buffalo, Missouri State, Texas State, New Mexico, and New Mexico State.
“Big Seny [Ndiaye] has been awesome as well! He has a lot to learn. He knows he does. The one thing you never have to worry about is that he goes hard every single time. Seny has been great,” says McCabe.
There are a lot of guys coming back for next season. Two of those guys are Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman. Both came into the program last season as JUCO transfers. McNeil and Sherman showed that they can compete against bigger competition, especially Taz down the stretch. McCabe sees both those players having breakout seasons for the Mountaineers.
“I really think Sean McNeil is ready to really show a lot more. I would say Taz is in the same category. Those two have come off a JUCO year, which I think for our program is really important. You watch how good we have been with JUCO guys, but it is a learning curve. From what I have seen in open gyms, practice, workouts, and early season stuff, Sean McNeil has not only put in the time but he has the mentality and attitude to jump forward this season. I’m excited to see it,” said McCabe.
Along with analyzing his teammates’ games, he has been doing some self-examining on his own game. McCabe says that he has seen growth in his shot. He has been improving his shot on and off the court by watching NBA legends.
“Where I think I have gotten better at is my shot. My shot, right now, feels better as it ever has. I have been watching and listening to a lot of Steve Kerr on how he transitioned from college to the NBA, how he got out of slumps, and how he maintained his percentages,” says McCabe.
There are still a lot of questions and concerns ahead of the upcoming college basketball season. Nobody knows what to expect quite yet, and this worries McCabe as a competitor.
“I am extremely worried just as a competitor. I know a lot of our guys are concerned as well. We want to play. We are taking three different tests each week. We are worried about it. There are things in life that you cannot control,” says McCabe.
The Mountaineers men basketball team look to open the season against Fairleigh Dickinson on November 10 at the WVU Coliseum.