(Larry Harrison Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview)
— Story by Taylor Kennedy
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With the college football season still going on, the college basketball season is slowly creeping up on us. College hoop practices officially begin next week.
The West Virginia’s men’s basketball team, along with a number of other schools, have been putting in countless hours in the gym trying to perfect their craft. The Mountaineers are returning eight guys that averaged over 13 minutes per game last season.
Larry Harrison, WVU’s associate head basketball coach, believes this team is showing something that he has not seen since 2010. Harrison was a guest on the Citynet Statewide Sportsline Wednesday evening.
“This might be the deepest team that we have had in quite a while. You would have to go back to the 2010 team that went to the Final Four, and the Press Virginia team(s) with Jevon [Carter], Tarik [Philip], Gary Browne, Juwan Staten, and those guys. We pretty much got two of everything,” says Harrison.
Harrison also appreciates the energy and effort that he has seen from this year’s team.
“The guys are playing hard. Practices have been very competitive. Pretty much everyone has gotten better. We are very excited about the progress the guys have made,” says Harrison.
Shooting was an issue for last season’s team. The Mountaineers finished in the bottom half of the Big 12 in field goal percentage (42%) and three-point percentage (29%). Coach Harrison gives different opinions on the guys that have been shooting the ball well.
“If you go catch and shoot it is Sean McNeil. If you go to someone who can get you a bucket off the bounce then you are talking about Taz Sherman. The guy that is pushing the ball in transition and getting up and down the floor you are talking about Deuce McBride,” say Harrison.
McBride stepped into the spotlight last season and did not disappoint. He finished last season averaging 10 points per game while shooting 40% from the field. Harrison is putting people on alert for McBride.
“Deuce has really stepped his game up quite a bit. I think last year to this year people are going to see a tremendous jump in his game on both ends,” says Harrison.
Along with the returning players, WVU is welcoming four new faces to its roster. Those new players include Isaiah Cottrell, Kedrian Johnson, Seny Ndiaye, and Taj Thweatt. Harrison sees something in Cottrell that he has never seen for as long as he has been in the WVU program.
“Isaiah Cottrell is, skill wise, the best big we have had skill wise. He is still adjusting to the speed and physicality of the game. He is still making that adjustment. Skill wise, he is a 6’10 guy that can pick and pop and put the ball on the floor. We never really had a big that could do some of the things that he is doing,” said Harrison.
Two guys that opposing teams know a lot about are Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. Those two, last season, controlled the glass finishing in the top-5 in the Big 12 in rebounding. Oscar averaged close to nine rebounds and Derek averaged around eight and a half. Harrison sees differences from both of the players’ games from a season ago to now.
“I think Oscar, skill wise, has gotten better. One of the things he worked on quite a bit is scoring on the side inside. He is shooting better from 15-feet away. So I think skill wise he has gotten better. Derek Culver has always been a good rebounder, but I think because of practice being so competitive I think he has become a better rebound, especially on the offensive end then last season. I still think we have two of the best bigs in the country,” says Harrison.
The Mountaineers are scheduled to play 27 games (18 conference games). The first home game is expected to be played the first week of December.