With the report today that both Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver will be returning to WVU for 2020-21, the Mountaineers’ outlook for next season got a lot brighter.
The West Virginia team that won 21 games this season will return all but 33 player starts and 76.7% of its scoring from this season. There will be at least four newcomers for Bob Huggins’s team next year team as well as one player coming off a redshirt season.
Out: Jermaine Haley (graduation), Chase Harler (graduation), Brandon Knapper (transfer)
The Mountaineers will see the biggest loss at guard with Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler and Brandon Knapper all leaving. Haley started 30 of 31 games for WVU at shooting guard last season, providing stellar defense on the perimeter. Huggins described Harler as the team’s best on-ball defender and the only player on the court that knew what to do at all times.
Returning will be point guards Jordan McCabe and Miles McBride and shooting guards Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman and Spencer Macke.
McCabe started 29 games this season but was unproductive offensively as a sophomore. He averaged 3.1 points per game, shooting 31.1% from the floor and just 20.9% from three. He had 51 assists and 42 turnovers.
McBride was the team’s leading scorer off the bench and third-leading scorer overall this season. The freshman averaged 9.5 points per game, shooting 40.2% and 30.4% from three. He had 56 assists to 41 turnovers and had 16 double-digit point games this season. McBride was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team.
McNeil and Sherman were both brought in as junior college shooters last season and both struggled to find consistency this season. McNeil shot 36.9% from the floor and 33% from three, averaging 5.5 points per game. Sherman improved down the stretch, scoring 20 points at Baylor, 16 at TCU and 12 at Iowa State. For the season he averaged 5.3 points on 38.3% shooting, 33.3% from three.
Macke walked on last season, seeing time in seven blowout wins. He made two three-pointers on the season, one of which landed him on ESPN.
Currently, the only newcomer that will join the group on scholarship will be JUCO guard Kedrian Johnson from Temple College in Texas. Johnson committed to WVU in November and was a scoring phenom in junior college. The Dallas native averaged 25.6 points as a freshman in 2018-19 and 25.5 points as a sophomore this season. Johnson shot 47.1% from the floor this season, 32% from three and 84.1% from the free-throw line.
Beckley, WV, native Jay Moore will walk-on with the Mountaineers next season. Moore (6-foot-5, 190 lbs.) is unrated by both 247Sports and Rivals.
In: Jalen Bridges (redshirt), Taj Thweatt (high school)
Emmitt Matthews Jr. was the only wing player the Mountaineers had this season. The sophomore started 30 of 31 games and, like McCabe, suffered a bit of a sophomore slump on offense. Matthews averaged 6.3 points per game, shooting 39.1% from the floor and 30.1% from three.
After redshirting this season, Jalen Bridges will be available for Huggins in 2020-21. The Fairmont, West Virginia native only played in the team’s exhibition against Duquesne this season, scoring four points in five minutes. He averaged 21.6 points and 6.7 rebounds as a senior in high school.
Joining the roster next season will be Wildwood, New Jersey, product Taj Thweatt. Thweatt (6-foot-7, 175 lbs.) is rated a three-star prospect by both 247Sports and rivals and committed to WVU in September. Thweatt averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds as a senior at Wildwood Catholic this season. He averaged 20.2 and 4.2 as a junior.
Out: Logan Routt (graduation)
Forward has been West Virginia’s strongest position each the last two seasons and the frontcourt looks to get even stronger next year.
The team will return the bruising duo of Tshiebwe and Culver while only losing Logan Routt, who played in a reserve role.
In his freshman season, Tshiebwe lived up to the hype he generated as a McDonalds All-American, with team-leading averages of 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds. He also led the team with 32 blocks and had 23 steals. He was named to the All-Big 12 second team and to the NABC All-District first team.
Culver was right behind Tshiebwe in his sophomore season, averaging 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. He added 54 assists, 24 steals and 24 blocks. He was an All-Big 12 honorable mention.
The final returner will be Gabe Osabuohien. A first-year transfer from Arkansas this season, Osabuohien was WVU’s defensive specialist off the bench this season. He averaged 3.1 points and 4.1 rebounds this season, but also had 53 assists and 34 steals.
The newcomer to the team will be in-state big man Isiah Cottrell from Huntington Prep. Cottrell (6-foot-9, 210 lbs.) was rated as a four-star prospect by both 247 and rivals. He averaged 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds as a senior this season.
With Knapper’s transfer, Huggins should have at least one more scholarship to give out to any late addition he may want to make to the roster. Other than any future additions or players entering the transfer portal, West Virginia is more or less set for another challenging schedule in 2020-21.
This story was updated at 12:30 to include Jay Moore.