When it comes to its roster, West Virginia men’s basketball is sitting pretty.
Bob Huggins and his staff are in a much better position than most programs. Despite definitely losing four student-athletes from this past season, the Mountaineers are returning eight — most of whom were key pieces for the squad this year. In addition, they will be debuting Jalen Bridges, who spent last season with a redshirt on the bench.
Their true strength in numbers, though, comes from the Mountaineers who haven’t yet made their way to Morgantown.
“We signed three guys early, and they’ve all done really well,” Huggins said. “They’ve all done well academically, they’re all chomping at the bit to get here and get started.”
Before the season was even over, the trio of Kedrian Johnson, Taj Thweatt and Isaiah Cottrell were already signed, replacing seniors Jermain Haley, Chase Harler and Logan Routt on the roster. Now the Mountaineers have a single scholarship to fill, and a satisfied Huggins is in no rush to fill it.
Let’s take a look at Huggins’s new players before they make their way to WVU:
- 3 stars (Rivals, 247Sports)
- Temple Junior College (TX)
- 6′ 4″
- 180 lbs
- 25.5 ppg, 5.4 apg
The lone junior college signing made by Huggins this year, Johnson continues the trend of high-volume shooters coming to WVU from JUCO.
Johnson spent the last two years at Temple College, averaging over 25 points per game in both years while ranking in the NJCAA’s top five for scoring average. He’s not just a shooter — he can dish it and steal it. His 101 steals ranked 6th nationally while adding an average of 5.4 assists per game.
While at Temple, Johnson faced off against current Mountaineer Taz Sherman at Collin College. While Johnson scored 25 points for Temple as they won the contest 99-91, Sherman led all scorers with 35.
- 3 stars (247Sports)
- Wildwood Catholic (NJ)
- 6′ 6″
- 195 lbs
- 17.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg
Like some of Bob Huggins’s other top recruits in recent years, Thweatt is relatively new to organized basketball having started playing in eighth grade — but you wouldn’t know that from his play on the court. In his junior year, he averaged 20.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as he earned the 2018-19 Press (The Press of Atlantic City) Boys Player of the Year and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2018-19 South Jersey Player of the Year.
His senior year numbers may have dipped a little, but his Wildwood Catholic team would win their first South Jersey title in over a decade — and he was the lede of the championship’s recap before earning yet another Player of the Year nod.
Thweatt was a force inside for the Crusaders with his rim-shaking dunks, but he also showed some stroke from outside with his 28 three-pointers on the season.
- 4 stars (247Sports)
- Huntington Prep (WV)
- 6′ 10″
- 215 lbs
- 15.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 4.3 bpg (2018-19 at Bishop Gorman [NV])
Cottrell was on Huggins’s radar even before he made the move to Huntington Prep, getting his offer from the Mountaineers back in February of 2018. He then went on to prove himself as one of the top players in Nevada en route to a state title before heading to the Mountain State.
The long, athletic forward is arguably the most coveted of WVU’s 2020 signees, staving off offers from rivals and powers like Kansas, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Arizona.
With his length and size, Cottrell has a well-established post game with a tendency to clean the glass — but his ability to hit shots may come in as the true difference-maker for WVU, a skill which the Mountaineers severely lacked in their frontcourt this past season.
“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.”
Cottrell has a strong defensive side to him as well, fancying himself to be a rim-protector while averaging over 4 blocks per game in his junior season.