Over the last couple of months, several changes have been made to the WVU men's basketball roster. Players transferring in and out, NBA Draft decisions have been made, and newcomers have arrived. Now that the dust has settled, let's recap what happened this offseason and take a look at the updated roster.
LEFT VIA Transfer Portal - Emmitt Matthews Jr. (Washington), Jordan McCabe (UNLV), Jay Moore (undecided), Spencer Macke (undecided)
Matthews Jr. and McCabe both came to West Virginia in 2018 and both played significant roles during their three years in Morgantown.
Matthews was often overlooked due to the surrounding talent but head coach Bob Huggins always praised him for his effort on the glass, attacking the rim, and playing defense.
As for Jordan McCabe, he saw his minutes and role diminish over each of the last two seasons and realized that things wouldn't be much different next season, even as a senior.
Moore and Macke were both walk-ons for the Mountaineers and will now have the opportunity to earn playing time at a lower level.
LEFT FOR NBA DRAFT - Miles McBride, Derek Culver
Seeing McBride remain in the 2021 NBA Draft was not much of a surprise especially after he put on a show at the NBA Combine in late June. McBride appears to be ready for the next level but an extra year could have benefitted him as well. I don't think McBride necessarily made a bad decision since he will more than likely be a 1st round selection.
As for Derek Culver, I don't quite understand his reasoning to head to the next level. He told reporters earlier in the week that he hopes to be a stretch four and be a big that can consistently knock down jump shots, including threes. Unless he has drastically improved his shooting range and consistency in the last couple of months, I don't see how he will get drafted. He could end up in the G-League or overseas but then again, we don't know his situation. This might be a decision he made to help support his family or it could be where he was getting bad advice from folks that don't know what's in his best interest.
WITHDREW FROM DRAFT, RETURNING TO WVU - Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil
Despite the loss of McBride, West Virginia will still have a lot of offensive firepower in the backcourt with the return of Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil. Both guys can shoot the lights out from three-point range and are very capable of dropping 25+ points on any given night.
Sherman notched 20 or more points in five games this season and averaged 13.4 points per game coming off the bench. He shot 40% from the field and 34% from three-point range.
McNeil also had five 20-point games this past season, including in the team's 2nd round loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament where he hit seven three-pointers on his way to 23 points. He finished the season averaging 12.2 points per game and shot 88% from the free-throw line, 40% from the field, and 38% from beyond the arc.
OTHER RETURNERS - Kedrian Johnson, Taj Thweatt, Jalen Bridges, Isaiah Cottrell, Seny N'diaye, Gabe Osabuohien
Johnson was the 4th leading scorer in all of junior college basketball in the 2019-20 season averaging 25.5 points per game. Huggins has a knack for landing JUCO scoring guards but it usually takes them a year to really make an impact on the offensive end. Jaysean Paige, Sean McNeil, and Taz Sherman are all perfect examples. Although he only averaged a little over seven minutes per game, I would expect Johnson to have a much larger role in 2021-22.
As a senior at Wildwood Catholic High School in New Jersey, Thweatt averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. His film showed an extremely explosive player with a lot of bounce and I think he can get back to that and have a pretty solid career once he gets settled in and comfortable with his role.
Jalen Bridges has all the tools of becoming a major star in the Big 12 and could turn into the team's best pro prospect down the line. Bridges can rebound and shoot the ball at a very high level but at times, passed up some shots. I look for him to be more aggressive as a sophomore and also improve his ability to put the ball on the deck and finish around the rim.
Isaiah Cottrell is a terrific rebounding big that is skilled with the basketball. Unlike Sagaba Konate, Devin Williams, Derek Culver, or any other big man Huggs has had in recent years, Cottrell can stretch the floor and shoot the three-ball. This will force opposing bigs to come out and guard on the perimeter, where they don't feel comfortable. If he is back to full health by the start of next season which is expected, Cottrell will be in the starting lineup.
Seny N'diaye hasn't played organized basketball for all that long, which is why Huggins referred to him as a baby giraffe. He's a tall, lanky big man that hasn't quite filled out his frame and at the same time, is still learning where to be on the floor, what to do with the ball when he gets it, and so on. N'diaye doesn't have the potential that Cottrell possesses but once the game slows down for him, he'll be a nice role player for the Mountaineers.
Gabe Osabuohien may not be much of an offensive threat but the energy he brings off the bench on the defensive end of the floor is unmatched. He's a vintage Bob Huggins type of player that rebounds the ball, defends extremely well on and off the ball, racks up deflections, dives for loose balls, takes charges, and just uglies the game up. West Virginia's defense inside the paint was horrendous this year but if it weren't for Osabuohien, it would have been even worse.
NEWCOMERS - Dimon Carrigan (Florida International), Pauly Paulicap (DePaul). Malik Curry (Old Dominion)
With McCabe, McBride, and Matthews out, Carrigan, Paulicap, and Curry take their place.
Dimon Carrigan was a terrific shot-blocker and according to Bob Huggins, was the best shot blocker available in the portal. West Virginia struggled badly defending the paint in 2020-21 and will need that to change if they want to compete for a Big 12 title.
Pauly Paulicap also is viewed as a shot-blocking big but not quite on the level of Carrigan. Paulicap will be more effective by changing/altering shots at the rim and securing defensive rebounds. That said, he is a little more skilled on the offensive end than Carrigan as Paulicap averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 55% from the floor.
Malik Curry is seen as a scoring upgrade over McCabe. This is no slight to McCabe who knew the offense in and out and knew what he was supposed to do at all times but he just didn't have the athleticism to bring it all together. Curry led Old Dominion in scoring in each of the two seasons by averaging 13.4 and 15.6 points per game respectively.
INCOMING FRESHMEN - Kobe Johnson, Seth Wilson, Jamel King
Kobe Johnson had a phenomenal senior season and averaged 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 51% from the field and 40% from three-point land. He was named the Ohio Division I Player of the Year.
During the first two years of his high school career, Wilson attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron and registered the second-most points as a freshman in the history of the program, trailing only 16X NBA All-Star and 4X NBA champion, LeBron James. Wilson will be able to play the point, the two, or even the wing if need be.
King is a very solid three-point shooter that has a consistent motion to his shot. Coming to WVU, King's offensive game is very similar to that of sophomore Jalen Bridges. He has the ability to make highly contested threes and will knock down pretty much anything when given an open look. He does drive the ball down the paint on occasion but that is one area of his game that he needs to continue to develop.
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