The 2020-21 season was a roller coaster ride for West Virginia basketball forward Isaiah Cottrell.
Just in his freshman year, he was able to practice against great big men in Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. Cottrell was able to appear in 10 games before the true start of conference play. The Huntington Prep product shined most of all against No. 1 Gonzaga, scoring six points on 2-of-3 shooting in 11 minutes of play. The freshman from Nevada was getting his opportunity to showcase his skills immediately.
The highs of Cottrell’s freshman year came to a quick halt when he suffered an Achilles injury against Northeastern on Dec. 29. On Aug. 24, Cottrell was cleared to return to all basketball activities.
“I mean, just getting hurt with a season-ending injury, regardless is the worst thing that can happen for a basketball player, really,” Cottrell said on The Final Fourcast podcast. “Just the whole set of events that happened when I got hurt—like when I would have been a starter when Oscar [Tshiebwe] left. It wasn’t fun but it made me better mentally.”
For Cottrell, this recovery process won’t easy as he spent a lot of time alone just lounging around for two-months straight. Cottrell lost 20 pounds at the beginning of his recovery process but had many uncertainities that he was asking himself.
“Just thinking about the uncertainty of how long is it going to take to come back,” Cottrell said. “Just thinking a lot about the bad things instead of thinking about the positive things that could come out of it. That’s probably the biggest thing is thinking about [if] I’m going to be able to play the same way or play better than I did last year, things like that.”
The 20 pounds that Cottrell lost while in isolation ended up getting gained back, and then some. Cottrell gained about an additional 25 pounds during the off-season and added an inch to his height, being listed at 6-foot-11.
West Virginia’s men’s basketball program has changed a whole lot since Cottrell went out of action. Tshiebwe, Culver, Miles McBride, Emmitt Matthews and Jordan McCabe all departed while seven newcomers were added to the roster during the off-season.
Cottrell commented on the new look Mountaineers for the 2021-22 season.
“I think we look good,” Cottrell said. “The only thing we have to figure out is everything with the new guys, we’ve got a lot of new guys. We’ve got to really gel together and make sure we are all on the same page.”
Cottrell thinks the additions of the four freshmen and the three grad transfers adds a lot of versatility to the roster. Maybe a return of ‘Press Virginia’ for this upcoming season?
“I think we are going to be a lot more active in the press this year. We’ve got a lot of athletic guys,” Cottrell said. “It’ll be a change of play style.”
(Top Photo: WVU Sports)