The West Virginia University Mountaineers are ranked 20th and 18th in the polls before the start of the 2016-2017 season. This is in large part to both their style of play (#pressvirginia) and the strength they return in the backcourt that allows them to relentlessly pressure their opponents. Gone is Jaysean Paige, last year’s leading scorer, but returning are a host of athletic and talented guards that know exactly what Coach Bob Huggins will demand of them.
This group is dynamic and tenacious. They will be the ones to win games while getting right into the grills of their opponents, and likely picking up a few technicals along the way. They all seem to play with chip on their shoulder and a fire in their bellies. This group, on this team, is Huggins newfound style personified, and will be a hell of a lot of fun to pull for. Let’s dig into who they are and what we might expect.
Jevon Carter, 6’2/200, Jr
Jevon Carter will be the star on this team. He lead the team in assists last season, he is the leading returning scorer, and he lead the team in steals. He’s a feisty defender who pours himself into the game. He’s not a great shooter (30.6% from distance), but he slashes and drives well, creates points off his defense, and is WVU’s most reliable player with his hands on the ball. He was the only player to start all 35 games last season.
He will start. He will be good. This is one of the things that we can count on.
Daxter Miles, Jr, 6’3/200, Jr
Dax started all but five games last year. He shoots too many 3’s (30.3%) and he doesn’t always distribute the ball well, but he is exceptional getting to the bucket and does well in the press. He averaged only .1 points per game less than Jevon and both should reliably be in double figures throughout this season.
Dax will likely start alongside Jevon in the backcourt. They will be two incredibly experienced guards to anchor the press and drive the offense. Their maturity in conference play will dictate this team’s success.
Tarik Phillip, 6’3/195, Sr
Tarik is the wild card. He came off the bench last season (along with Jaysean, the team’s leading scorer) and provided the second string spark, of both talent and energy that often put opponents flat on their back. One could argue he is the most athletically dynamic guard on the team. He was the best three point shooter on the squad last year.
Tarik and Jaysean were the second line last season. I can’t see any reason why Tarik won’t stay in that role- in which he thrived. What remains to be seen is who can plug into the second role of that line.
James “Beetle” Bolden, 6’0/160, r-Fr
Bolden was held out of last season due to injury. He is the only true point guard on the team. A season of experience in Huggins system will be huge, and reports out of practice show that he is a talented player who will get plenty of minutes.
Where will he play in the rotation is an interesting question. Will he fall into the role of Jaysean, and come in as a second line with Tarik? Will he start, as a true point guard alongside Jevon, Dax, Esa, and Elijah? It’s hard to say. There is little reason to speculate before we see what Coach Huggins does on Friday.
Teyvon Myers, 6’2/185, Sr
Teyvon has spoken, in interviews this preseason, about the difficult defensive transition from Junior College to playing under Huggs. His comments give me incredible hope for his ability to contribute to this years team.
Myers was, in JuCo, a shooter and a scorer. If he can find a way to let Huggins let him stay on the floor on the defensive end, he should be able to fill in Jaysean’s role nicely. That would mean that Teyvon and Tarik come in as the second line and provide relentless effort in the press while also providing a secondary scoring threat. Again, it all hinges on his defense. Teyvon started four games late in the year last year, which shows that Huggins has faith in his development.
So, what does it all mean?
This group will dictate the success of this team. The bigs and the wings have bigger question marks, and hopefully will be able to facilitate success, but this group is the make or break group. Phillip, Carter, and Miles all averaged about 9.5 points per game last season, and ought to all see that number rise into the double digits. Myers is the most eligible candidate, other than Esa Ahmad, to be the team’s most improved player.
More than anything, this group seems to embody that #pressvirginia life. They seem to love to compete, love to pester the opponents, and love to just flat out get after it. While they may have some individual flaws, this group is a hard one to not root for.
If Huggins can find a way to see all three experienced guards manage, collectively, 45 points a game and either one of Beetle or Myers step up into a reliable secondary role, this team has an incredible ceiling.
We’ll take a look at the final group tomorrow. The season is just one day away.