Entering the 2016-2017 season West Virginia will have to answer numerous questions if it wants to put together the program's third consecutive 25 win season. One of the biggest question marks surrounding the team is whether or not the Mountaineers' vaunted full court press will be effective without the ultra-athletic Jonathan Holton guarding the inbound pass. When West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was asked about replacing Holton, he implied that Nathan Adrian should be able to slide into that spot without much of a drop-off in performance. And although Adrian may not be as athletic as Holton, he says his experience running the press and consistently taking the right angles on defense will help compensate for the difference in athleticism between the two forwards.
"(Taking angles) is definitely something I learned more (at West Virginia) because in high school it doesn't matter as much how fast you are," Adrian said. "I have done it for two years now so I'm pretty comfortable doing it."
While Adrian is one of the few forwards with a wealth of experience returning to the roster, there are some new faces at the position that must make an immediate impact. Adrian shared his early impressions on Sagaba Konate and Maciej Bender, who will both play meaningful minutes and be asked to contribute almost immediately.
"They're doing well," Adrian said. "Sags and Maciej are big bodies so they're going to help us this year. They just have to get into the swing of practice and get used to it, then they'll be good."
A big part of improving and developing into a Division 1 basketball player, as Bob Huggins often notes, is putting hours and hours into the gym, which is something Adrian has done in the off-season. Adrian noted he has worked significantly on his shot and feels that it could be the most improved area of his game, and during last week's media session Bob Huggins stated that Adrian had been very impressive shooting the ball in the limited practice time that the Mountaineers have had thus far. But aside from the improvements he has made on the court, intangibles such as Adrian's leadership ability and work ethic could make an even bigger impact on the success of the team in the coming year. Adrian, who is a Morgantown native, shared his thoughts on stepping into a leadership role in his senior season.
"All of our seniors as a whole have done a really good job leading our younger guys," Adrian said. "If they need help with something, we help them. I definitely feel that I need to be a leader because I know what it means being around here."
Bob Huggins has repeatedly stated that the need for leadership is critical for the returning upperclassmen on West Virginia's roster and leading by example is just as important as replacing the production that the Mountaineers lost on the court. Adrian, who showed some of the biggest progress of any player on last year's team, looks to take another step forward in 2016 and become one of the more consistent options on the team. Doing so would certainly go a long way in setting a precedent for the younger players to follow in their own careers.