The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 21, 2014

Experience now only thing missing for WVU basketball

Just as the football team did with the signing of Shaquille Reddick on Friday, Bob Huggins’ West Virginia University basketball team appeared to plug a major hole in what many feared was a sinking ship Tuesday, signing junior college guard Jaysean Paige.

A 6-foot-2, 195-pound guard from Jamestown, N.Y., Paige will have two years of eligibility left at WVU. He most recently played at Moberly Area Community College in Moberly, Mo., where he averaged 21.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He ranked 13th in scoring in the National Junior College Athletic Association. He reached double figures in every game and had 30 or more points on five occasions.

Perhaps most importantly, Moberly was a solid shooter from the perimeter, knocking down 44.6 percent of his 3-point attempts.

That's what had WVU fans salivating like a rabid husky Tuesday upon the news of Paige’s signing.

Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, both of whom decided to transfer away from Morgantown after solid sophomore seasons, took with them 28.9 points per game and 136 3-pointers. Harris shot 42.2 percent from 3-point range, while Henderson, who missed a big portion of the season with an illness, shot 37.6 percent from downtown.

With those two out of the equation — and Remi Dibo, the team’s next-highest 3-point shooter, considering playing professionally in France instead of returning — the top 3-point shooter remaining for the 2014-15 season would have been sophomore-to-be Nathan Adrian, a forward, who drained 39 3-balls and shot 35.8 percent from long range.

The Mountaineers were in desperate need of a sharpshooting guard, and it appears as though they found one.

Now, the pieces are in place.

WVU has its leader, both on and off the floor, in point guard Juwan Staten, a senior-to-be who averaged 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and six assists per game last year and figures to be a favorite for Big 12 player of the year honors.

It has some other athletic guards in high school signees Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, along with junior college transfer Tarik Phillip, and now it has its backcourt shooter in Paige. Former Shady Spring star Chase Connor, a walk-on who will be a sophomore next season, also saw action late in the year and showed the ability to knock down open shots from anywhere on the floor.

On paper, that’s a solid backcourt.

The frontcourt should be much improved. Not only will Adrian, Brandon Watkins and Devin Williams be back with a year of experience under their belts, they’ll be complimented by the additions of 6-foot-7 Jonathan Holton and 6-9 Elijah Macon, both of whom are expected to make a major impact.

So what’s missing from the 2014-15 roster?

Experience.

The lessons that Harris and Henderson learned the last two years in the Big 12 are now completely void. Guys like Paige, Carter, Miles, Phillip, Macon and Holton are now going to have to learn those lessons for themselves.

The growing pains that WVU basketball experienced the last two years — missing the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons after five straight appearances after Huggins’ return to his alma mater — were supposed to pay off down the road.

But now only Staten, athletically challenged forward Kevin Noreen and backup guard Gary Browne have been through more than one Big 12 campaign.

WVU has done a solid job on the recruiting trail filling in the missing links. But if the frustration is going to end and the wins are going to return, the young Mountaineers are going to have to grow up quickly.

And even if it takes ankle bracelets or the construction of The Great Wall of Monongalia County, the coaches have to find a way to keep these players in town.

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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