As the Mountaineers return to practice and prepare to open up Big 12 play on Saturday afternoon versus No. 17 Texas, it’s time to reflect on the first half of the season with some awards.
Most Valuable Player – Taz Sherman
Honorable Mentions: Sean McNeil, Gabe Osabuohien
Taz Sherman has undoubtedly been the most valuable player for West Virginia so far this season. When on the court, Sherman gives WVU the best opportunity to stay in games and win them. Sherman is averaging 20.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals through 12 games. The fifth-year senior is proving a lot of people wrong with his honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team, back in October. Sit tight, readers, we’re not done talking about Sherman just yet.
Sean McNeil and Gabe Osabuohien were honorable mentions for the fact that they’re the other two players that single-handily keep WVU in games. McNeil has had moments of taking over the game, while Osabuohien’s defense and hustle alone take the Mountaineers places.
Best Offensive Player – Taz Sherman
Honorable Mentions: Sean McNeil, Jalen Bridges
Sherman also wins the best offensive player on the team. Sherman is shooting 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from three and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Even in games where Sherman isn’t shooting the ball well, he’s quietly scoring 18 or more points. It’s actually crazy to witness his first-half stretch this season. When Sherman isn’t scoring, he’s creating plays for his teammates, averaging 2.8 assists per game. When Sherman is in the game, expect the ball to be in his hands.
McNeil and Jalen Bridges were honorable mentions because of their scoring abilities. McNeil is averaging 14.0 points on 37 percent shooting from three. Bridges has shown flashes of a great scorer, being the team leader against Pitt, with 18 points.
Best Defensive Player – Gabe Osabuohien
Honorable Mentions: Keddy Johnson, Dimon Carrigan
No shocker here.
Osabuohien has been West Virginia’s best defender for the past couple of seasons now. The fifth-year senior brings a presence that makes the opponent feel like they’re playing six defenders. Osabuohien is averaging 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks. I’ve tried to keep up with the many charges Osabuohien has drawn this season. My count is at 10 through the first half of the season (12 games).
Gabe Osabuohien records his 10th charge drawn in the 2021-22 season.
His second of the night. #WVU
— Ethan Bock (@ethanbock_) November 27, 2021
There could be a lot of honorable mentions from this team, but I went with Kedrian ‘Keddy’ Johnson and Dimon Carrigan. Johnson has been incredible this season forcing turnovers, averaging 2.2 steals per game. Johnson has been a big reason why WVU’s defense this season has been much better than last season. Carrigan has helped replace the interior presence from Derek Culver, as the Florida International transfer averages 1.1 blocks in 11.2 minutes of play.
Best Addition – Malik Curry
Honorable Mentions: Pauly Paulicap, Dimon Carrigan
This was the hardest award to give out. All of the graduate transfers that the Mountaineers acquired during the off-season have been great. All three have been deserving at some point this season, but in the end, I’m giving it to Malik Curry.
The reason why I chose Curry over Pauly Paulicap and Carrigan is that Curry has shown flashes of taking over the game. Against Eastern Kentucky, Curry scored a bunch of points in the final minutes to avoid the upset by EKU. Curry is a great player to come off the bench and give WVU some points. The fifth-year senior is averaging 6.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
As said above, Carrigan has done a great job at helping the interior defense get better from last season. Paulicap has helped a lot with that as well. Paulicap brings a lot of energy to the court when he checks into games, a lot similar to Osabuohien.
Best Freshman – Kobe Johnson
Honorable Mention: Seth Wilson
With Kobe Johnson and Seth Wilson essentially being the only freshman to really get quality playing time, I gave this award to Johnson. Johnson has stepped into his role very well with this team, showing flashes of being the next great guard at West Virginia. Bob Huggins and the coaching staff had a lot of trust in Johnson, that they threw him into the starting lineup when McNeil was out with a back injury against Radford.
Johnson is averaging 1.9 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 11.8 minutes of play. The freshman from Ohio has played in all 12 games this season for WVU.
Wilson is averaging 1.2 points and 0.7 rebounds in six games played. Once the guard depth opens up next season, Wilson will get a really good opportunity to shine.
Most Improved – Taz Sherman
Honorable Mentions: Gabe Osabuohien, Keddy Johnson
Sherman with another award. Sherman has shown that he is one of the most improved players in the country so far this season. Sherman was expected to take over as the offensive leader with McNeil, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be one of the nation’s leading scorers.
Last season, Sherman was coming off the bench in a great sixth-man role for him, that he thrived in and loved. Occasionally, Sherman would disappear when WVU needed more consistency, but there’s no such thing as inconsistent this season for the fifth-year senior. The lowest amount of points Sherman has scored this season is 12, with him having six 20-plus scoring games this season.
Osabuohien and Keddy Johnson were my honorable mentions due to the fact that they have been the biggest part of identifying this WVU defense. Osabuohien has also been more aggressive in scoring the ball. Yes, 4.3 points per game isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot of Osabuohien who has stepped it up big time this season. Keddy Johnson has also improved a lot as he’s received more minutes after Deuce McBride left for the NBA.
Could Improve – Isaiah Cottrell
Honorable Mention: Jalen Bridges
Before I get into this “award,” this doesn’t mean I think Isaiah Cottrell is bad. I roll my eyes when I see people say that he’s holding the team back or that he’s a liability. People need to remember that Cottrell is coming off an Achilles injury still and he’s told the media that he has been playing a lot more conservatively because he’s still adjusting to getting back onto the court.
Is it safe to say he could improve? Yes.
Once Cottrell becomes more aggressive, which was shown against Youngstown State, this offense will continue to get even better. We know that Cottrell is talented, it’s just going to take time for him to get more comfortable on the floor.
I picked Bridges as an honorable mention due to the fact that he’s another player that needs to be more aggressive, and Bridges is working on it as well. Bridges is averaging 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 12 games.
If Cottrell and Bridges could be more aggressive, this team’s potential is very high.