In college basketball, it’s become commonplace for true freshmen to make immediate impacts for their respective schools. In fact, it’s not rare to see teams recruit, develop, and start only freshmen, e.g., Kentucky or Duke.
That is not the case for West Virginia.
Bob Huggins is no stranger to throwing freshmen into the fire the second they step on campus. In 2015 and during Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr.’s freshman season’s, it was done out of necessity. After Eron Harris and Terry Henderson transferred and Juwan Staten graduated, it was up to Carter and Miles to man the backcourt. The rest is history, of course, but it wasn’t until last year that those two obtained national attention as elite Big XII guards.
This season, the narrative is the same. Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. are the unquestioned leaders of the Mountaineers, guiding their team to its highest AP ranking since 1959 and aspirations of another Final Four run. But if West Virginia is destined to make another deep NCAA run, Huggins will have to rely on one freshman, in particular, to do so.
If there was any one area that West Virginia needed to improve upon from a year ago, it was scoring in its halfcourt offense. The Mountaineers’ notorious pressure defense is designed to ultimately create more opportunities for the offense, but that won’t work all the time.
Enter Teddy Allen.
In the offseason, Huggins credited Allen’s offensive ability but was quick to point out his flaws as an on-ball defender. He was right. But for now, that’s okay. Allen isn’t tasked with shutting down an opponent’s most prolific scorer but rather being one himself. Allen isn’t the guy Huggins looks to make the game-changing steal or block. Carter and Sagaba Konate are more than capable of providing that.
Allen needs to score. And score he does.
In Big XII play, Allen is averaging 19 points per game (15 pts at Oklahoma State, 22 pts at Kansas State, 20 pts versus Oklahoma). Even more impressive, Allen has become, in many ways, what Esa Ahmad should be once he returns. Allen has cemented himself as one of the go-to-guys for the Mountaineers off the bench and as a player Huggins can trust to fill up the stat sheet when needed.
Once Esa Ahmad returns, don’t expect Allen to take a back seat, however. The two actually compliment each other perfectly. Ahmad is also a prolific scorer but is a much more experienced defender and rebounder. Currently, Allen averages just over 11 minutes per game while Ahmad is coming off a season of averaging over 20 minutes per game. And by season’s end, those averages will probably look the same.
In a season that seemingly serves as a victory lap for both Carter and Miles, it’s guys like Teddy Allen that provides that spark every championship caliber team needs.