Chase Harler has been around the West Virginia University men’s basketball team for a while now. He has had time to take notice of certain things and is able to provide insight in ways a younger player could not get away with.
Take WVU coach Bob Huggins and the annual lookout for what he wears to the Big 12 media day festivities in Kansas City, Missouri. Harler has watched this all happen from a distance for years, but this season he was on hand at the Sprint Center as one of West Virginia’s veterans.
The longtime Mountaineer coach kept it simple this year, with a nice suit to go with his familiar old gold and blue shoes and a vest featuring logos for WVU basketball and football. Harler was asked about Huggins’ attire and didn’t hold back.
“I think he wants to look really nice for everyone,” the senior guard said. “He probably only has 10 pairs of sweatpants and pullovers that he wears all of the time.”
You get to fire off jokes like that at Huggins every once in a while when you’ve been around WVU as long as Harler has. As a high school player at Wheeling Central, Harler was all-everything for the Maroon Knights and helped lead the team to Class A state championship in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015 while being named the Gatorade state player of the year twice.
Harler was on the end of the bench as a freshman and became a role player for the Mountaineers as a sophomore. Last season Harler found himself in the spotlight for West Virginia with the Mountaineers searching for a lineup that could compete.
“Early on, I didn’t understand why Huggs was getting on me and I took it a little personal,” Harler said during an interview session in Morgantown earlier this month. “As I matured, I came to understand and our relationship got better on and off the floor.”
As a junior, Harler appeared in all 36 games for the Mountaineers with 17 starts. The Moundsville native averaged 5.4 points and 1.2 rebounds while playing 22.3 minutes per game. He made 39 percent of his field goals and just under 33 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Harler is one of just three seniors on the team this season, along with Jermaine Haley and Cameron’s Logan Routt. He’ll be working on a master’s degree in sports management this school year after earning an undergraduate degree in general business over the summer.
Though he is listed as a guard on the West Virginia roster, Harler will be one of several Mountaineer players who are not nailed down to playing just one position. He probably won’t lead the team in scoring but he can live around the perimeter, and if the front-court duo of sophomore Derek Culver and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe can cause the defense to collapse on them, the former Maroon Knight standout should have plenty of chances to spot up for open shots.
“[Harler] just needs some consistency,” Huggins said earlier this month in Morgantown. “He’s been really great and really helped our younger guys, because he knows what he’s doing and he knows what we want. He just needs to continue to do what he’s doing there and be more consistent at the offensive end. But he’s playing really, really hard. Chase is giving us everything he can give us.”
That, of course, is easier said than done, but Huggins has indicated Harler’s shooting has improved. Rumor even has it Harler played very well in the (somewhat) secret scrimmage (allegedly) against Penn State last week.
“It’s more like a glue guy. I have been here four years, and I know what Huggs wants,” Harler said Wednesday. “I know the looks and know the sets, and I need to be more vocal get us in the right spots. Defend, make open shots, and I think I will get the ball more to make more decisions.”
It echoed what he told the media earlier this month in Morgantown when he described himself as a “traffic control guy” for the Mountaineers.
“My job is to get everyone where they need to be,” Harler said. “I’m trying to be more of play-maker and hit open shots.
“It’s a big role. A lot of guys can do a lot of things but if we’re all running into each other it is not going to work as smoothly. Like I said, I understand what we’re looking for and try to get people into positions that will benefit our team.”