Redshirt Season Could Set WVU’s Jalen Bridges for Big Debut in 2020
The 2019 high school basketball recruiting class Bob Huggins put together for West Virginia has already proven to be a major success.
As true freshmen, forward Oscar Tshiebwe and guard Miles McBride emerged as two of the Mountaineers’ most valuable players last season. Tshiebwe led the team with 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. McBride blossomed in the second half of the season, averaging 9.5 points per game and scoring in double figures in each of the team’s final three games.
Tshiebwe and McBride weren’t the only impressive freshmen with the Mountaineers last season, however. Like Tshiebwe and McBride, Bridges joined the Mountaineers with a lot of hype, having won the Bill Evans Award as West Virginia’s best player in 2019.
Unlike Tshiebwe and McBride, however, Bridges elected to redshirt last season and never saw the floor for WVU — a decision Huggins said will pay dividends.
“I think he’s benefited a great deal [from redshirting], particularly physically,” Huggins told reporters Thursday afternoon. “He’s really done a good job in the weight room. He’s gotten stronger, he’s playing so much more assertive.”
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The only time WVU fans saw Bridges in action a year ago was in WVU’s preseason exhibition game against Duquesne. Bridges played five minutes against the Dukes, scoring four points on 2-4 shooting with a rebound and a steal.
Huggins said he thinks Bridges can play an important role for the Mountaineers this season.
“I thought at the end of last year he was one of our better offensive rebounders. We need him to continue to do that,” Huggins said. “He’s a 6-foot-7, maybe 6-foot-8 now, guy that can make shots, he can stretch the defense and he’s gotten much better defensively.”
At the very least, Bridges will give Huggins something he did not have last year, a second wing player behind junior Emmitt Matthews, who was the team’s only real option at wing last season.
Matthews has been taking steps to make sure Bridges will be ready this year, according to Huggins.
“Emmitt Matthews has been terrific in trying to help,” Huggins said. “He’s trying to help [Bridges], he’s really trying to show people.”