There will be more than a few new faces on the West Virginia University men’s basketball roster during the upcoming season, and even among the returning players there are plenty just in their second year on campus.
The Mountaineers are a young team and this point in the preseason, WVU coach Bob Huggins said, is when you find out what those young players are capable of doing.
“You show them what you want to do, and then you have to break it down,” Huggins said. “We’re at the point where it is not put back together yet. So there are some things that we’re doing OK, and there are a lot of things that we’re not doing OK and we’ve got a lot of young guys — different guys.”
West Virginia hosted its Gold-Blue Debut last week for fans and begins the exhibition portion of its preseason schedule on Nov. 1 against Duquesne at the WVU Coliseum. Between now and then, the idea is to get everyone on the same page and get those young players up to speed.
One young player most West Virginia fans and opponents around the Big 12 will have an eye on is true freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe. Fans got their first look at Tshiebwe in the Coliseum last week, with mixed results. Tshiebwe did register a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds with two blocks and three steals, but he also committed four turnovers.
On Wednesday, Tshiebwe was named the Big 12’s preseason Freshman of the Year in a vote by league coaches.
“It means a lot, but to me it’s motivation,” Tshiebwe said. “It gives me more motivation to work hard. I have [a lot] to prove and I’ve got to play great.”
Expectations are clearly high for Tshiebwe, and comparisons with former WVU star forward Sagaba Konate were inevitable — although not exactly spot on, according to Huggins.
“I think the expectations for him, on the outside, were a lot more than Sags,” Huggins said. “We had Elijah [Macon] and we had Brandon [Watkins] and we had those other guys. Particularly with last season, I think everybody expects [Tshiebwe] to come in and be the savior. Fortunately he doesn’t. He just wants to get better. He loves playing basketball, he has fun playing basketball and that’s a good thing.
“Oscar is a very level-headed kid and I think, if anything, it has made him hungrier to be better because he knows he’s behind in a lot of areas. His footwork is not very good. That’s a guy who has really only played a couple of years of basketball, so he’s got a lot to learn. The great thing about that is he wants to learn, he wants to be better. He’s being coached by us and coached by his teammates — a lot of guys coming in, particularly guys with a big rep like he has, would say, ‘Hey man, I got it.’ He doesn’t. He listens and listens to our older guys. He has been great.”