In 2019-20, West Virginia’s plan at the wing position was simple; play Emmitt Matthews Jr. and hope he did not get tired.
Matthews was the Mountaineers’ only true wing player last season, although guards like Jermaine Haley and Taz Sherman would play minutes at the position as well. Matthews was the only wing player, however, he was not the only wing on the roster. Fairmont Senior High product Jalen Bridges was on the team as another wing but elected to redshirt as a true freshman and did not see the court.
This season, Matthews will not have to shoulder all the wing minutes himself, as Bridges and true freshman Taj Thweatt both figure to see time there as well.
Returners (2019-20 Stats):
Jr. Emmitt Matthews Jr. (21.3 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
As the team’s lone true wing player, Matthews was one of only five players to average more than 20 minutes per game last season. After a promising freshman campaign, Matthews started the season well in his expanded role.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Matthews scored in double digits six times and averaged 10.6 points per game.
“I worked on trying to be more consistent, that was one of the problems I ran into last year,” Matthews said. “That was my first year being in a bigger role and I didn’t know what was expected of me so I was just kind of going out there the first few games and just doing whatever and it was working.”
In the next 20 games of the season, however, Matthews scored double-digit points just once and averaged 3.5 points per game.
“When the game didn’t work for me, I just kind of folded up into a ball and I went back to what I was doing freshman year instead of staying resilient and being confident and going out there and just playing my game.”
He did finish the season on a good note, however, scoring a season-high 18 points in an upset victory over then-No. 4 Baylor.
R-Fr. Jalen Bridges (DNP, redshirt)
Bridges’ original plan coming out of Fairmont Senior was to take a post-graduate year at Scotland Campus in Pennsylvania before joining the college ranks. That changed after he visited WVU and he committed to the Mountaineers right away.
Still wanting to take a break to prepare himself for the college game, Bridges decided to redshirt last season and preserve a year of eligibility. Coming into this season, WVU coach Bob Huggins thinks Bridges could be a big addition to the rotation.
“I think he would have really helped us last year,” Huggins said. “He was one of our better offensive rebounders at the end of the year and he can make shots. When JB gets on a roll he can really make shots. He can shoot from deep, which stretches the defense. He’s got length and good feet, so he’s going to be a good defender.”
Fr. Taj Thweatt
Thweatt (6-foot-7) was rated as a three-star prospect coming out of the New Jersey prep ranks. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds as a senior at Wildwood Catholic last season. He averaged 20.2 and 4.2 as a junior.