The Mountaineers Look To Replace Leading Scorer, Rebounder After Top 10 Finish

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Inquiries about any in-practice developments for West Virginia's basketball team are nothing if not premature. But there are certain aspects which have already been touched upon by head coach Bob Huggins.

The chief one among them is that forward Nate Adrian has played well, and advanced his already-solid passing abilities in the offseason. The previously clean-cut player is now sporting a full beard and longer hair, and looks every bit the seasoned senior he is. Adrian started 16 games last season, averaging more than four points and three rebounds. But it was his defensive and distribution ability which was most valuable for Huggins, and those will again be prime components of Adrian's game.

"Nate's played really well, but we have only (practiced) twice," Huggins said. "It's been pretty much what we expected. They've all been good all summer from the running part and the lifting part. Give me another couple of weeks."

Besides the uptick in Adrian's play, West Virginia will need across-the-board increases in production to offset the losses of Jaysean Paige's 13.7 points per game, and Devin Williams' 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds. Add in the steals, assists and other unseen tangibles, along with their leadership and defensive ability, and the Mountaineers enter the preseason with a handful of unknowns. There are hunches where some of that production could emerge, namely a more comfortable Esa Ahmad paired with what Huggins hopes is a more workmanlike approach from Elijah Macon. Add in freshmen Sagaba Konate and Maciej Bender, and WVU has both the power and skillsets needed.

On the outside, a return to form is anticipated from Jevon Carter after the guard struggled at times during his sophomore season. Carter's overall production increased, but he wasn't as efficient, his shooting percentages falling both overall and from three-point range. The junior did increase his assist-to-turnover ratio from 1.51 to 1.97. Beetle Bolden's return from an ACL tear that sidelined him last season should give West Virginia a pure point guard to go with the comfort of Tarik Phillip at the position. Daxter Miles comes off a season where he averaged more than nine points and played the third-most minutes behind Carter and Williams, and he'll need to shoot more consistently from the line (60.2 percent) and better his distribution. 

"Becoming a better leader and dribbling," Mile said when asked about his offseason improvement goals. "We want to have a good year, have a good outcome and feel good about the team. We have been in the gym a lot over the summer and I fee like the mindset of the team is different, a lot more determined."

WVU opened practice on Oct. 2, and will hold the Gold-Blue Debut on Thurs., Oct. 13 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, W.Va. as the Coliseum renovations continue. Admission is free. The Mountaineers now have 36 days before their opener at home against Mount St. Mary's.

"People lead by example," Huggins said. "J.C.'s been great and Nate's been great. Those two guys stand out more than anybody else. It's a long season, so consistency becomes imperative."

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