With three games remaining, attention is still fixed on the Mountaineer football team. While the football squad is ranked in one of the polls, the Mountaineer Men’s basketball team is ranked 11/10 and tips of the season against the #25/- ranked Texas A&M Aggies in Rammstein, Germany on Friday night.
In order to preview the Mountaineer’s this season, we’ve broken things down into positional groups. We’ll take a look at the key losses and additions, as well as each player on the roster to see what might be expected from each one. Despite some early season depth issues and a few new faces, this should be the most talented iteration of #pressvirginia yet. The first group up is the guards.
Tarik Philip, Teyvon Myers, James Long
WVU lost one of the best 6th men in the country in Tarik Phillip. He provided an instant spark and was the team’s best and most reliable three point shooter. Teyvon Myers showed numerous flashes of potential but never seemed to become consistent on either end of the floor. It looks like West Virginia will be thinner at guard than they have been in the last couple of years. The will rely on two seniors in Daxter Miles, Jr. and Jevon Carter to stay on the floor, out of foul trouble and consistently provide stability and leadership for Bob Huggins’s team. Let’s take a look at each play individually, in the order that they ought to contribute.
Jevon Carter, 6’2/ 205, Sr
The reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has been the most consistent player for the Mountaineers for two seasons. He’s the top returning scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game a season ago. Carter also lead the team in assists and managed to pull down five rebounds per contest from his point guard position.
With Esa Ahmad out for the first half of the season and considerably less depth and scoring coming from the back court this season, it will be on Jevon to set the tone and score the basketball. Jevon can be most effective if he relies on what he does best; slash to the basket, look to kick the ball out to open shooters, and use his incredible defense to create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. Jevon did quietly improve his three point shooting last season, connecting on 38.9% of his attempts. He will be the player with the ball in his hands on key plays and will be relied on heavily. He could easily average close to 38 minutes a game, if he keep out of foul trouble.
Best Case Scenario: Jevon steps up offensively and averages between 18 and 20 per contest. He plays just as tenaciously on defense but rarely finds himself in foul trouble. He wins Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year again, is named to the Big 12 First Team, and is the unquestioned senior leader of the team that finally dethrones Kansas and wins the Big 12.
Daxter Miles, Jr, 6’3/ 200, Sr
Dax averaged 8.8 points per game last season in 21 minutes per game. He’s going to be relied on to up both those numbers if WVU is to live up to expectations this year. Daxter has certainly showed off his ability many times throughout his career. What he has seemingly been unable to do is put together any consistency. Look at this six game stretch:
Iowa State- 23 points in 26 minutes
Texas- 6 points in 20 minutes
Kansas State- 0 points in 7 minutes
Iowa State- 10 points in 22 minutes
Bucknell- 2 points in 25 minutes
Notre Dame- 18 points in 28 minutes
Those are critical games late in the season, in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. Dax put up two great games, two complete no shows, and two ehh’s. He won’t need to raise his ceiling this year, but he will certainly need to lift up his floor.
Best Case Scenario: Daxter does exactly what we know he is capable of, but he does it more often and consistently. Minutes per game approaches 30 and Daxter finds ways to avoid foul trouble and be effective scoring and shooting the basketball.
James “Beetle” Bolden, 6’0, 160, So
Expectations were high when Beetle arrived in Morgantown last season. Injuries and a whole lot of depth in front of him kept him from having many sustained opportunities. When he was in the game, he didn’t look ready for the demands of playing Mountaineer defense, and could certainly use another 25 pounds on his frame.
Bolden averaged 5.8 minutes per game in 27 appearances for WVU last season. He scored a career high 17 points against Oklahoma. In his limited appearances, Bolden got up shots. He attempted 49 threes in 156 total minutes, or close to an attempt every three minutes. What is encouraging is that Beetle connected on 22 of those attempts, good for nearly a 45% clip. Bolden will play more minutes this year as he will be the first guard off the bench for coach Bob Huggins. Hopefully, his shot selection will remain solid and he can find a way to maintain that high percentage over many more attempts.
Best Case Scenario: Beetle steps up and into the role that Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige have occupied in recent years. WVU needs to have a scorer come off the bench who can provide an instant spark and hopefully a little extra tenacity. Paige and Philip seemed natural for that role, it remains to be seen in Bolden can find a way to plug into that spot. WVU will need him to.
Chase Harler, 6’3/ 210, So
Chase is an in state prospect who played his High School basketball at Wheeling Central. Harler totaled only 95 total minutes last season as a Freshman. In most seasons, someone in Harler’s spot wouldn’t expect to see the floor very often. Unfortunately, due to graduation and injury, Harler may find himself thrown into the fire. If WVU relies as heavily on the relentless full court pressure, foul trouble is sure to follow at some point. If Carter and or Miles have issues with the whistles, Harler will have to step up.
Best Case Scenario: Chase steps up when he is called upon and contributes serviceable minutes as a reserve guard.
Brandon Knapper, 6’0/ 180, Fr
Knapper is a Charleston native who spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy before enrolling at WVU. Unfortunately for Knapper and WVU, Coach Huggins recently announced that Brandon had undergone surgery to repair a meniscus and would be out indefinitely.
Freshmen have shown that there is a fairly steep learning curve upon arrival at WVU, but this is the season that Huggins’s front court most needed every available body. It will be a thin group, and hopefully Knapper recovers well and is able to get back to full strength.
Best Case Scenario: Brandon under goes a full rehab, gets healthy, and comes back stronger than ever.
Putting it all Together
It is hard to know what to expect from this unit as a whole. On the one hand, Jevon and Daxter are some of the most experienced senior guards that WVU has fielded in a long while. They ought to be the vocal leaders of this team as well as the statistical leaders in most categories. With the suspension of Esa Ahmad for the first half of the season, even more of the load will have to fall on to their shoulders.
Huggins has mentioned that with the lack of depth, particularly in the backcourt, it may be difficult for WVU to rely on the relentless pressure that has become their calling card. Simply put, to play that style means that fouls will be called, and if you don’t have any guards left to run out there it usually hurts the team. If the press is not as prevalent this season, it will be interesting to see what rotations and defenses that Bob turns to and if showing different looks can make WVU even more of a nightmare to match up with and prepare for.
I believe that for the first part of the season, we’ll see a starting five that consists of Carter, Miles, West, Harris or Hunter and Konate.
We’ll pick up the previews tomorrow with the Wings, where we’ll see plenty of new faces as well.