Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision to withdraw from the 2020 NBA Draft provides some clarity to Mountaineer fans during an otherwise uncertain offseason.
Although there’s still no indication of exactly how the Big 12’s pandemic policy may impact summer workouts for men’s basketball teams, one of the biggest questions regarding West Virginia’s roster for the 2020-21 campaign has already been resolved.
With Tshiebwe set to return, the Mountaineers will be loaded with talent again — and this time, they’ll be a more experienced bunch.
Each of West Virginia’s top three scorers — Tshiebwe, Derek Culver and Miles McBride — are set to return, and a group of talented newcomers could also make an immediate impact next season.
Projected Starting 5
- Miles McBride
- Taz Sherman
- Emmitt Matthews
- Derek Culver
- Oscar Tshiebwe
At this point, head coach Bob Huggins has six guards on his roster (five on scholarship, one walk-on). It’s likely that McBride will lead that group in his second season with the Mountaineers.
McBride was West Virginia’s third-leading scorer during his stellar freshman campaign, during which he was named to the Big 12’s all-freshman team.
Junior college transfers Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil also added some scoring punch, with each averaging just over five points per game. Sherman made four starts, including three in the final six games of the regular season as Huggins altered the team’ rotation during a skid.
But the returning guard with the most starting experience is Jordan McCabe, who has made 44 starts in two seasons in Morgantown. McCabe saw his minutes dip as a sophomore (down from 18.5 per game as a freshman to 13.5 last season), but he could still play a valuable role in 2020-21.
Then, there’s junior college transfer Kedrian Johnson, a player who excelled on both sides of the ball at Temple College in Texas. Last season, he ranked in the NJCAA’s top five in scoring average, while also ranking sixth nationally with 101 steals. Like fellow JUCO transfers McNeil and Sherman, Johnson likely will be immediately added to the rotation next season.
Tshiebwe and Culver will be together again — and the expectation is they’ll be even better.
The two big men finished first and second on the team in scoring average and rebound average, each earning all-conference recognition. Tshiebwe was just a few rebounds shy of concluding his freshman season with a double-double average.
But beyond Tshiebwe and Culver, the Mountaineers could be deeper than any Big 12 team at forward next season.
Emmitt Matthews will return for a third season after finishing fifth on the team in scoring average — and after capping the 2019-20 campaign by logging a season-high 18 points in a win over Baylor.
WVU will also rely on Gabe Osabuohien for tough defense in the future. As a junior, Osabuohien found his niche within the team by logging 24 charges, 34 steals and 148 deflections.
A trio of promising newcomers could also help the Mountaineers next season. After redshirting in 2019-20, Fairmont native Jalen Bridges is expected to contribute next season. Huggins has said Bridges benefitted from the redshirt year after he was named the top high school basketball player in West Virginia in 2019.
Two more true freshman are set to join the Mountaineers next season: Isaiah Cottrell, a four-star recruit from Nevada, and Taj Thweatt, a three-star talent from New Jersey.
“We’re hoping [Cottrell and Thweatt] both add to the skill level of the front line,” Huggins said. “Our ability to step out and make shots, our ability to pick-and-pop, our ability to do a lot of things that we didn’t do — couldn’t do — a year ago.”