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Bock: What’s the Rush on Isaiah Cottrell?

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Isaiah Cottrell fights for the rebound Friday night against Pitt in route to WVU’s victory. (WVSN photo by Kelsie LeRose)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For WVU forward Isaiah Cottrell, to be in the position he’s in now is incredible to think about after what he’s been through.

Everyone knows the story. In December of 2020, Cottrell ruptured his Achilles during a game against Northeastern. Cottrell got surgery, busted his ass in the recovery process and was cleared to return to the court by August. But an Achilles injury is no joke. For athletes, it has been researched that it takes a couple of years for players to return to their former selves if they even return to the court. Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and Brandon Jennings are just some of the few basketball players to sustain the injury and never return to what they were before the injury.

When players return from such a devastating injury, they often play more conservatively and avoid contact. The same goes for Cottrell, the Las Vegas, NV, native who has been working on how to get comfortable with on court physicality.

“I say just things that involve contact, like rebounding, is the biggest thing,” Cottrell said. “It’s something I’m improving with and I’m learning how to do it again.”

What’s the point of me writing this, you may ask?

I’ve seen fans for the last two months call Cottrell “soft” and want the coaching staff to replace him this offseason. What’s the rush on Cottrell?

Coming into this season, Cottrell was anxious to return to the court after a serious injury and was immediately thrown into the starting lineup. Did people expect an All-Big 12 player in Cottrell this season? This season for the 6-foot-10 forward is the first time that he’s playing a lot of minutes. Cottrell didn’t get to go through the freshman struggles of adapting to the speed of college basketball. Now, this season is that for him.

I was critical of Cottrell in November when the team was getting out-rebounded by the likes of Oakland and Pitt. I was also critical of Cottrell about his shot selection. If one-shot is made, Cottrell is going to take two more shots within the next minute.

What did Cottrell say he needs to improve on?

“Rebounding probably the biggest thing, for sure,” Cottrell said. “Just confidence in [my] shooting, shots that I know I can make.”

Cottrell knows where the improvements need to be, and he has improved at least defensively over the last six games. Since Dec. 18, Cottrell is averaging 1.8 blocks per game, recording three games with three blocks. That’s pretty good for someone who has been called soft.

In conclusion, has Cottrell been great? No. But, context matters. Cottrell has had a lot of pressure thrown onto him since he returned to the court and I think it’s fair for the fans to give him more time.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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