Every season it seems like West Virginia basketball has at least a few in-state players on its roster.
That is by design, as WVU head coach Bob Huggins still values in-state recruiting as much as ever. Even as college basketball recruiting has become less and less regional over the years, Huggins said he maintains the importance of recruiting players from West Virginia.
“I’m very much in favor of recruiting in-state guys,” Huggins said on a Zoom call Thursday afternoon. “I think it’s really important.”
Huggins said in-state players have a better understanding of what it means to play for WVU and represent the state and that they are better able to explain that meaning to WVU’s other players.
“I think those guys go a long way in teaching other people what it means to play here and how much it means to the people in this state,” Huggins said. “It’s one thing for us to try and tell them, it’s another thing for their teammates to explain to them what it’s about, representing this state, representing the people in this state in the form and fashion they deserve to be represented.”
The Mountaineers have three WV products on its roster for the 2020-21 season, Jalen Bridges, Isaiah Cottrell and Seny Ndiaye. Bridges, a redshirt freshman, is from nearby Fairmont and played at Fairmont Senior while true freshmen Cottrell and Ndiaye both played at Huntington Prep.
Huggins said he firmly believes that West Virginia produces Division-I caliber players that he can recruit on a consistent basis.
“We’ve got underclassmen in our state that are going to be recruitable,” Huggins said. “The in-state guys we have on the team are very capable and we just lost a couple, Chase [Harler] and Logan [Routt], who contributed a whole lot of really good basketball.”
Harler and Routt, both seniors on last year’s team, were with the program for four-plus years and developed into productive players for Huggins. Harler, a Moundsville native, averaged 5.4 and 4.4 points during his final two seasons with the Mountaineers. Routt, from Cameron, was a five-year member of the team, walking on and redshirting in 2015-16 and eventually earning a scholarship before last season.
“It kind of goes in cycles,” Huggins explained of WV’s in-state talent. “It goes in cycles where maybe the better athletes are in southern West Virginia, maybe some year they’re in the eastern panhandle and then maybe some years they’re right down the road.
“I think it better when they’re right down the road,” he joked.