All five of West Virginia’s true and redshirt freshmen basketball players saw action in Friday’s 87-59 season opening victory over Mount St. Mary’s at the WVU Coliseum. As with most rookies, it was a bit of mixed bag.
Redshirt freshman forward Lamont West was the most productive of the newcomers in the first half, but then again he had the most opportunities. He played eight minutes during the opening period, scoring seven points and hauling down five rebounds. He didn’t score in the second half but did grab three more rebounds to finish his first game as a Mountaineer with seven points, eight rebounds and one block in 14 minutes. West was extremely active, getting his hands on both rebounds and MSMU passes. But he also was a bit out of control at times, and ended up on the bench for long stretches in the second half because of miscues
None of the other four freshmen saw more than three minutes action in the first half. As West Virginia’s lead, which was 43-24 at halftime, expanded in the second half, WVU head coach Bob Huggins started to insert his younger players more and more.
West Virginia's two true freshmen forwards, Maciej Bender and Sagaba Konate, were limited to two and one minute of action respectively in the first half, and neither scored during that time. Konate did wind up being the first of the freshmen to reach the scoring column, besides West, as the 6-foot-8 product of Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage, Pa., pulled down an offensive rebounds and flipped in a jump hook at the 12:44 mark of the second half. He quickly followed that on WVU’s next possession with another jump hook for a basket, as he shed some of his early tentativeness and became much more aggressive on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Konate wound up with 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 12 minutes. Bender took just one shot, a three-pointer that barely grazed the rim. He thus was the only one of the freshmen who did not score. He grabbed a rebound in nine minutes of playing time, but spent most of his time drifting around the perimeter, as he wasn’t overly active.
The Mountaineers’ first-year guards, true freshman Chase Harler and redshirt freshman Beetle Bolden, worked together for significant minutes during the second half. Bolden struggled at times handling the basketball, but he did score his first collegiate points with 9:25 remaining in the second half, draining a three from near the top of the key. He added another three on a crossover step-back a few minutes later, totaling six points in the game in 14 minutes.
Bolden didn’t have an assist but he also didn’t turn the ball over either. Harler was one-of-two at the foul line in the final minute of the contest for his only point game, but he was active defensively. The Wheeling Central Catholic grad didn’t seem overmatched considering he had spent his high school days competing against Class A (the smallest class in West Virginia) athletes.
Having seen playing time in the opener, a typical redshirt year is now off the table for the three true freshmen, though a medical redshirt still would be an option if any get hurt in the early portion of the season.