With the WVU football team dropping below .500, many Mountaineer fans are looking toward the men’s basketball season.
There’s always hope at the beginning of the season, right? And there’s moreso with the addition of a McDonald’s All-America player like Oscar Tshiebwe. Pair him in the frontcourt with returning Big 12 honoree Derek Culver and suddenly there’s sunshine streaming down.
Mountaineer assistant Ron Everhart, entering his eighth season with Bob Huggins, has seen the good days. He’s seen the lean days, like last season’s 15-win team.
This season? He’s leaning toward the good days.
“We’re young,” Everhart said on Tuesday. “We really play hard though; we really compete every day. I like this team. It’s fun to go to practice.”
It’s good to see because Huggins and staff were absolutely tortured in 2018-19.
Anyway, I spoke with Everhart about what he’s seeing specifically with this Mountaineer team. In case you’re unaware, West Virginia is coming off those secret-not-secret scrimmages, this one against Penn State in Morgantown. Last season, PSU downed WVU 84-82 in a publicly held exhibition.
A harbinger of what was to come for the Mountaineers? If so, Huggins, Everhart and company are hoping for the same this season.
According to reports like that on StateCollege.com, WVU zoomed out to a big first-half lead and held off a Nittany Lion rally to win comfortably.
“It was one of those deals where we played very well in the first half,” Everhart said. “I think we shot 62 percent. We played very poorly in the second half. They cut a big lead down in the second half. But we were still able to gut it out. We held on, rebounded.”
Everhart paused when asked a final assessment.
“It was hard to tell at the end of the day because we had two guys that were out and they had two guys that were out,” he said.
WVU guard Sean McNeil sat out with what’s been reported as a concussion. Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien also sat. (Interestingly, though, when Everhart was asked if Osabuohien still has a chance of gaining a waiver to play this season, the Mountaineer assistant had a one-word answer: Yes.)
“All in all, we were able to play a lot of guys,” Everhart said. “We were able to see a lot of things competitively because we were playing someone different.”
I asked the coach about Tshiebwe’s play. Penn State’s 6-8 225-pound senior Lamar Stevens reportedly had 26 points.
“Struggled a little bit with the skill stuff,” Everhart said of Tshiebwe. “Had some issues at the high post. He didn’t play very well, but he’s going to. It’s going to be a lot better. And you have to remember (Penn State) had seniors. One kid was a fifth-year senior who has been through four years of Big Ten basketball. So there was a lot to factor in and that was with all our young kids, not just Oscar.”
“We have a lot of problems to fix, but we do a lot of things a whole lot better than last year. I think one thing better is we can score.”
Should be fun to watch. The Mountaineers host Duquesne, which Everhart once coached, on Nov. 1 in a charity event then begin the regular season by hosting Akron on Nov. 8.
“Even though there’s a lot of things we’re not doing real well yet execution-wise, I think it’s a team that will continue to get better,” Everhart said. “They push themselves every day. And they really enjoy competing against each other every day. I’m excited.”
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