Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

West Virginia Forward Nathan Adrian Contributes More Than Stat Line Shows

According to West Virginia head basketball coach Bob Huggins, junior forward Nathan Adrian had his best game ever in the Mountaineers' 70-55 win over Kansas State. In addition to the scoring boost that he provided in his first start of the season, though, there were a couple of items that didn't get mentioned in the deserving compliments that were directed Adrian's way.

Adrian played a fine game according to the box score. He hit four of his five shots, including both 3-point attempts, on his way to 10 points . He grabbed three rebounds and had an assist, and perhaps more importantly, had just one turnover and two fouls. That last allowed him to stay on the court for 21 minutes, which was vital given the desire to fully rest Esa Ahmad, who sustained a knee injury against Texas Tech on Saturday. However, those numbers are just part of the story.

The first factor that didn't get a lot of credit (and is often ignored when assessing Adrian's contributions) is passing. To some degree, that can be reflected in assist totals, but the numbers there don't tell all. Passes can lead to great shots, that, when not converted, don't get the tally mark in the assist column, and given West Virginia's inability to put the ball in the hoop at times, that has a detrimental effect on those totals.

What goes unnoticed is Adrian's ability to keep the ball moving, and to move it to the right spots to help with breaking down defenses and setting up chances that often lie beyond the next pass. Making the right decision on where and when to pass the ball is especially important in the motion offense, and Adrian does that well. He's also very good in passing the ball from the high post, especially when running the high-low and feeding the ball to Devin Williams or Elijah Macon on the blocks or closer to the rim. He knows where to pass the ball so fellow bigs can catch it in comfort and immediately get into their moves, and he knows when not to force it if the passing lane isn't there. In all, his ability in the passing game is definitely underappreciated.

"He passed the ball. He kept the ball moving. His passes were good. Defensively, he was really good. He made some shots, but I think his floor game was very good."
-- Bob Huggins

Second was his play against Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu. A versatile forward who can put the ball on the floor and drive it from the wing, Iwundu is quicker and a better jumper than Adrian, which gave him advantages that he was expected to exploit when matched up on the Mountaineer. That didn't happen, however, as Adrian turned in an excellent defensive game on his athletic counterpart. Iwundu got just four shots off in 33 minutes, making two, and also committed six turnovers. Not all of those go on Adrian's defensive ledger sheet, but he was there for many of them, and did an outstanding job of containing one of K-State's better weapons.

Finally, and there's no published stat for this, is Adrian's willingness to hit the floor in fights for the ball. That's not exactly a rarity on this West Virginia team, but he comes up with a lot of them, or manages to keep them alive for others to retrieve. He does the same on the boards – even when he can't grab the ball cleanly, he manages to tip it or direct it to a teammate, giving the Mountaineers another chance for an extra possession.

None of this is to say that Adrian is WVU's best player. He'd be the first to admit that. But it should show that in taking the measure of contributions, not everything can be summed up on the stat sheet.


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