When Devin Williams announced he was leaving WVU to seek a professional career, I was ultimately happy for him. I’m not selfish enough to want a kid to stay in college because he’ll make my team better then he can achieve financial success for him and his family. However, I was immediately concerned for the success of the WVU men’s basketball team down low.
Williams was a physically dominating presence in the paint. His 6-foot, 9-inch, 225-pound frame was utilized by Bob Huggins as a post-up forward on offense. However, the Mountaineers seem to be missing Williams most on defense this season.
In the game against TCU, WVU ended up out-rebounding the Horned Frogs but when things were going poorly, the Mountaineers struggled to keep TCU from second-chance points. Furthermore, when WVU began its run to seal the game, there were more second-chance points for the Mountaineers.
Through only three games in conference play, it’s too early to start panicking about WVU’s inability to rebound better than last season. It was expected to see a drop-off, but the concern is figuring out who would fill Devin’s shoes.
Nathan Adrian has been the emotional leader on and off the court. His hustle and his passion for WVU resulted in decent scoring outputs early in the season. However, Adrian is averaging just around 10 points and 6.4 rebounds on the season.
Esa Ahmad was brought in to be a scoring forward, but there has been a disturbing trend of his scoring dropping in the second half of games since conference play began. This is where your “big” men need to assert themselves in games and Ahmad needs to find that ability. His five rebounds per game are fine.
Brandon Watkins and Sagaba Konate have proven to OK. Watkins, a senior, has become more reliable this season. In his 15 minutes of play per game, he is grabbing almost five rebounds while also consistently providing points in the paint. Konate is seeing more minutes as the season progresses but still needs to improve his offensive rebounding prowess.
Lastly, there is Elijah Macon. Macon played with Williams and was supposed to be the physical rebounding presence Williams was. This has proven to be false. In addition to his poor shooting numbers, Macon also has the propensity to turn the ball over under any sort of pressure. This can’t happen in the paint.
Trying to replace Devin Williams’ 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game were bound to be difficult. No one player can deliver a double-double almost every time he touches the court, but are the “replacements” compiling enough to match that?
I’d say no, especially because they are all seeing more minutes, but really, only Watkins and Adrian’s numbers have increased with their playing time. This needs to change for WVU if they’re going to secure a bye in the Big 12 Tournament.