Last year, Jevon Carter, Tarik Phillip and Daxter Miles were the fresh faces of West Virginia basketball; surprising opponents with their skill sets while seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne ran the offense.
This year, each of them will take on new roles, as they move from being complementary players to the focal point of head coach Bob Huggins’ offense. For Carter and Phillip, the challenge will be to move from shooting guard to the point, where they will be tasked with facilitating the offense.
The team’s leading 3-point shooter from a year ago, Carter was most effective coming off of screens and in quick catch-and-release, spot-up shooting. With veterans like Staten and Browne feeding him the ball, Carter gave opponents fits from beyond the arc.
With Staten and Browne out of the picture now, Carter has to step into their shoes, which he said has been challenging considering the nuances involved in running the point. Rather than going with what his instincts were last year – scoring the basketball – Carter has to examine the whole floor in an effort to create looks for his teammates and himself.
“It’s had its ups-and-downs. I don’t feel like I’m where I want to be, but I’m better than I was,” Carter said of making the switch.
While he has to do the work on the gym to mold his game to suit the position, Carter said he is also watching plenty of film of Huggins’ point guards from yesteryear to visualize how he should play.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on Juwan Staten, and Nick Van Exel that (Huggins) had at Cincinnati and those types of guards. I’ve just been watching a lot of film trying to put it together,” Carter said.
With the raising of the Sweet 16 taking place before the team’s Gold-Blue debut, Staten and Browne were back in Morgantown to take part in the celebration. Carter said he has picked his former teammate’s brain to try to get a better feel for what he should expect this year.
“I talked to him Saturday about his experience in the NBA. It was good to hear about that. (He told me) just stay focused, stay in the gym and stay active,” he said.
Carter will not be making the move on his own, however. Tarik Phillip will also shoulder the role of running the offense this season, and said he is confident in both his and Carter’s ability to do it well.
“I think me and Jevon can get it done at the point guard position. Between me and him handling the rock, we both bring something different to the table. We’ll be ready to do that,” he said.
Phillip and Carter may be playing similar roles this season, but their skill sets are far from carbon copies of each other. As mentioned before, Carter has been more of a shooting threat in the past, while Phillip is known for slashing to the basket, drawing contact, and distributing to teammates while playing tough defense on the other end of the floor.
With the valuable experience Phillip gained during WVU’s Sweet 16 run last season, he said he has come into this year with a completely new understanding of the game.
“I’m just learning the game a little bit more. I feel like when we’re running pick-and-rolls and things like that I know where the help is coming from. I know where the ball needs to go. I can see the open man at the right times,” Phillip said.
“The year before I felt like I was rushing, not knowing where I was going. So that didn’t help at all either. Now that I know where people are I feel like it’s slowed down and it’s much easier for me.”