Connor's Hard Work Pays Off for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Connor's Hard Work Pays Off for WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Bob Huggins and his staff searched high and low for scorers after last season came to an end. On Saturday afternoon, a walk-on proved that one of their best investments may have been from right here in the Mountain State.

Chase Connor is a freshman walk-on for the West Virginia basketball team who spends the majority of his first season making an impact in practice, pretending to be a member of the opposing team.

The work he puts in as a scout team player is certainly beneficial to the Mountaineers on game day, but he typically spends the 40 minutes of Big 12 basketball at the end of the bench, watching his teammates handle the business on the court.

Saturday was different, though. The Shady Spring, W.Va. native had his number called just five minutes into the action against TCU and he responded.

Connor hit three-straight shots from beyond the arc, accounting for nine points when his Mountaineers trailed by six, and helping to energize the team on its way to an 81-59 victory.

"[Huggins] told me be ready today, so I was expecting it. I was hoping for it," Connor said after the game.

After his third 3-pointer, Connor's nine points were more than Juwan Staten and Eron Harris' combined score. Of course, that didn't last. As the game went on and got under control, the home team didn't feel the need to insert a walk-on back into the lineup. Still, his impact one the game was real as it turned the tides in the early stages.

"He gave us energy because you don't really expect him to come in and hit three-straight," Eron Harris said of Connor. "But at the end of the day, we really do expect him to do that because that's what he does. He shoots threes. I was proud of him."

He shoots threes, yes, but he shoots them in practice. Prior to Saturday, Connor had not scored a single point and averaged 2.8 minutes in his nine appearances. He got 10 minutes of action this time – one quarter of the game's total – and he took advantage of it.

Huggins had just informed Connor on Friday that with sophomore guard Terry Henderson missing yet another game due to illness, he would have to be ready. They tried to prepare him in one day for the work he needed to do on defense, but he was mostly asked to perform offensively.

"I said if I put you in tomorrow, are you going to get the yips? And he said, ‘I don't know, I did last time.' But I thought he came in, played with a lot of confidence," said Huggins.

All it takes to give a shooter confidence is that first made basket. Harris turned to his teammates on the bench as soon as the first 3-pointer fell and told them, "That's the only one he needed. He's not going to miss any more."

He did miss his fourth shot, but that still left him making three quarters of his attempts.

"You get a lot more confidence once you see the ball go in, whether it be a foul shot or a layup, you get a lot more confidence shooting the ball once you see it go in once," said Connor.

Initially, Connor's plan was to attend Radford with a scholarship. After breaking his leg, he had second thoughts and realized after speaking with WVU associate head coach Larry Harrison that his heart would keep him in his home state.

So he turned down the opportunity for more minutes and an all expenses paid education to take a shot at playing for the university he grew up cheering on.

Clearly the ultimate goal, though, is to play for West Virginia and earn a scholarship. He may be a long way from achieving that aspect, but a fellow West Virginian is confident that Connor can get there with continued hard work.

"I've always had confidence in Chase," said WVU freshman forward Nathan Adrian. "I've played with him in AAU for four or five years now and he's always been a great shooter. I never doubted that. If he would just come in and play hard like he can, then I think he could actually play for us."

The fans in Morgantown made it clear that they appreciated a West Virginia boy making an impact on the final score, especially one who does not get many chances to do so. When he subbed in for the second time, he was greeted by a thunderous applause that he says he did not noticed because he was focused on his defensive assignment.

His teammates noticed it, though.

"He's in his home state playing in front of all of his people he grew up with and family members and stuff like that," said Harris. "That's got to be crazy. I would love to do that."

As a player who grew up with dreams of suiting up in the gold and blue and playing for the Flying WV on his jersey, Connor's Saturday was pretty special.

"It means a lot, being from West Virginia," he said. "It means a lot to come in and contribute and be a part of the game." 

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