MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Five returners, seven newcomers and a player that could fall into both categories have gathered in Morgantown as the WVU men’s basketball team continues their roster reconstruction for the 2022-2023 season.
Individual and team workouts are held throughout the summer months. Associate head coach Larry Harrison says the new Mountaineers have heeded the call of the coaches to become well-acquainted to their new surroundings at the practice facility.
“You guys heard Coach Huggins talk quite a bit last year about guys being in the gym and guys working on their games to get better. At nine or ten o’clock at night on any given night, you might find five or six guys in the gym working on their game. I think we really recruited guys that want to get better and are really putting in the time,” Harrison said on Citynet Statewide Sportsline.
“The returning guys — the four freshmen and Keedy [Johnson] — they are kind of like, when we are doing drills or when we are transitioning from one side of the floor to the other, they are setting the tone as far as what needs to be done. The new guys, even though the majority of them are older, they are still trying to figure out what we are doing and how we do it.”
Four freshmen and fifth-year senior Kedrian Johnson are the only players to return from last year’s squad. Seth Wilson [20 games] and Kobe Johnson [32 games] played the most minutes in the group of freshmen.
“Seth Wilson is really shooting the ball well. Kobe [Johnson] has gotten stronger and more aggressive. James [Okonkwo], we are still trying to figure out if he is going to be a five or a four. His effort is really big-time. He is doing really well. And Jamel King is shooting the ball well.”
Emmitt Matthews, Jr. has crossed the country a second time. He played three seasons in Morgantown before playing his senior season in his home state at Washington. Matthews is back and is West Virginia’s most experienced player with 123 games at the Division I level under his belt.
“Obviously he liked what he had here because he came back. I think the guys are receptive to him. They are happy to have him back. He gives us some experience as far as a player that knows what we are all about.”
Matthews, Jr. is one of four ‘Power 5’ transfers added to the WVU roster this season. Texas transfer Tre Mitchell made 43 starts at UMass before playing in 24 games with the Longhorns last season.
“We knew he could score the ball. He can score inside and out. He is going to be probably that four or five guy, probably more of a four than a five. He is very skilled in the post with good post moves. He can step out for the three. He’s another guy that you can tell knows how to play.”
South Carolina transfer Erik Stevenson was one of the first transfers to commit to WVU during the offseason. Harrison says Stevenson plays with an edge that mirrors some of the better guards to play under Huggins in Morgantown.
“Think about guys like Tarik [Phillip], Dax [Myles Jr.], J.C. [Jevon Carter], guys that have a little bit to them. We haven’t had that in a while. He brings that to us on the floor, both offensively and defensively.”
Iowa transfer Joe Toussaint figures to share point guard minutes with Kedrian Johnson.
“He brings that grit, that toughness. He is low to the floor so I think he can really get up and bother people on the defensive end. And he can get the ball to the basket and he is a good passer.”
Three junior college transfers have arrived in Morgantown. 6-foot-10, 290-pound forward Jimmy Bell Jr. is transforming his body after transferring in from Moberly Area Community College in Missouri.
“As big as he is, he moves very well. He works out three times a day. He has dropped probably close to forty or fifty pounds already. He is really putting in the work. You come here in the morning, at eight or nine o’clock in the morning, he is on the treadmill. And then he works out in the weight room.”
Forward Pat Sumenick started his college career at Robert Morris and played last season at Triton College in Illinois.
“I think he has surprised everyone with his inside-outside presence. He is not Tre Mitchell but he has some of that skill level and traits. He can score inside and he shoots it better from the perimeter than what we expected. He is a lot more athletic than he looks.”
Mohamed Wague transferred to WVU from Harcum College in Pennsylvania.
“We call him Giannis. He is not Giannis [Antetokounmpo] yet and I am not saying he ever will be. But he is built like him. He runs the floor and he is athletic. He is not an elite shot blocker but he is a capable shot blocker.”
True freshman Josiah Harris battled injuries in his senior season at Richmond Heights High School in Cleveland. He is practicing with the team but isn’t full-go just yet.
“We can’t keep this guy out of the gym. He hasn’t been cleared yet for contact but he can do pretty much everything else. His first week here, we have guys coming in throughout the course of the day, and whenever he heard a ball bounce he would jump in with these guys. He might have been working out six or seven times a day. We had to tell him, ‘Josiah, settle down man. Slow down. This is not a sprint. This is going to be a marathon’.”