MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – On a team lacking experience and with precious few veterans, senior guard Chase Harler has emerged as one of the true leaders for West Virginia this season.
Harler is one of only two players on this season’s team who have been this the Mountaineers longer than two seasons. With a rotation that has ten first or second-years players on it, Harler has become something of a player-coach this season, more or less coaching from the floor when he is out there.
“He’s had a heck of a year,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said of Harler after Wednesday’s victory over Iowa State. “He’s shot the ball well, not just shot it well but made big shots. He’s the one guy you can rely on to know what he’s doing out there. He does a lot of coaching out there getting guys where they’re supposed to be and trying to talk them through some things. He’s been a good defender for us. He’s had a heck of a year, he’s really responded.”
As Harler’s WVU career has wound down he has become the kind of all-around perimeter player Huggins is always searching for. The Moundsville native averaged 5.4 points as a junior last season and is averaging 5.3 points this year. The big difference being that Harler played 22.3 minutes per game last year compared to just 16.5 this season. His shooting percentage has also risen by 44 points, up to 43.4%, the best among WVU’s perimeter players. His 19 made three-pointers are also tied for second-best on the roster.
Is his last three games, Harler is averaging 9.3 points, he said he is trying to end his career as a Mountaineer on a high note.
“I’m just trying to get better every game,” Harler said after scoring a season-high 14 points against the Cyclones. “I’ve only got nine more regular-season games so trying to go out with a little bit of a bang. My teammates have gotten me the ball in good positions to score and luckily I’ve gotten in the gym a little bit more and started making some shots.”
Sophomore guard Jordan McCabe said Harler has just been playing with more confidence in recent games.
“There’s a beauty and a struggle in the fact that we have a lot of different guys at a lot of different positions,” McCabe said. “Taz (Sherman) the last few games has been hitting shots, before him Sean (McNeil) hitting shots and now Chase coming out with a lot of confidence. He’s been in the gym and that’s a credit to our mentality of, you got to work, you can’t get this by sitting on the couch. And he does a good job by showing, as a senior, you get one last shot at this and he’s showed some senior urgency which is going to help us have a chance at not just a conference championship, but a national one.”
The play and leadership out of Harler this season is exactly what the young Mountaineer needed this season. Huggins said he has just one question for why this is all happening now.
“I asked him the other day in practice ‘what the hell took you so long?'”