We’re big fans of crowning leaders amongst the West Virginia basketball team here at DubVNation.
Personally, I believe Sagaba Konate will be looked on to provide the emotional guidance West Virginia needs down the stretch. Others claim Esa Ahmad will be the flag-bearer for the Mountaineers in 2018.
Both of these statements are true in their own ways.
Yet we’ve overlooked the one position where Bob Huggins needs the most help.
With Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. joining the professional ranks, West Virginia needs at least one capable guard to carry the torch.
Enter James “Beetle” Bolden.
He’s been overlooked and he’s also been injured. But with a taped wrist due to “stretched ligaments” and a bandage over his eye, Bolden emerged as the statistical leader for Bob Huggins squad in the season opener against Buffalo.
The junior ended his night with a career-high 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists and had it not been for an apparent leg injury in the second half, he would have had a lot more.
Without Beetle on the floor, the Mountaineers looked like a completely different, lesser-quality team.
West Virginia squandered a 14-point lead and eventually succumbed to the Bulls in overtime as Bolden watched in pain from the bench. In those closing moments, it became abundantly clear. Beetle is essential to the Mountaineers’ success in 2018. Apart from the career statistical night, Bolden easily transitioned from just a three-point threat to an extension of Huggins himself on the court. In 23 minutes of play, he committed only one turnover while Brandon Knapper (West Virginia’s back-up guard) tallied four.
Defensively, Bolden did well to keep in-between his man and the rim. And even though “Press Virginia” is not what it once was, Beetle snagged two steals and drew at least one charge during the game.
It was naive to expect a West Virginia team featuring seven newcomers to come out and dominate a Buffalo team stocked with veteran upperclassmen. A loss at home, though, did come as somewhat of a surprise and maybe it will serve as a reminder that a collection of leader-less talent does not a great team make.
Hopefully, Beetle’s injury doesn’t keep him out of the lineup for too long.
West Virginia needs him now more than ever.