By Cam Huffman
Needing to find some source of offensive production with sophomore guard Terry Henderson out of the lineup with an illness, West Virginia University head coach Bob Huggins looked down his bench during Friday’s practice, looking for somebody, anybody, who could come in and score a few points.
“We couldn’t hit our butt with both hands,” said Huggins. “We were struggling,”
The first man he saw was Shady Spring High School graduate Chase Connor. The freshman walk-on had played just 25 minutes all season and was 0 for 5 from the field in those outings.
But the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer had proven during his high school career that offense was not a problem. So Huggins had a hunch.
Huggins went to Connor with a simple question. “Can you make a few shots tomorrow?”
The freshman responded that he could.
With his team trailing 13-7 early in the first half Saturday at home against TCU, Huggins decided it was time. With a little under 15 minutes to go in the opening first half, Connor got the call.
Less than a minute later, Connor, who turned down a scholarship offer from Radford to walk on at WVU, scored his first collegiate points when he knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist from Gary Browne.
“I was a little bit nervous,” admitted Connor. “But once I made that first one, I really settled down. It took long enough to come, but once I finally got it, it felt good.”
Two minutes later, he struck again, this time taking an assist from Eron Harris, and on the next possession Connor stroked his third 3-ball of the game, taking an assist from Juwan Staten to give his team a 16-15 lead, its first of the game.
“After the second one, I was feeling it,” said Connor. “It was just an unbelievable experience.”
Connor ended up seeing 10 minutes of action, scoring nine points and grabbing a rebound. He missed his fourth 3 of the game, but it was the only shot he missed all afternoon in the Mountaineers’ 81-59 victory.
Connor also held his own on the defensive end, something that has kept many young players off the floor on Huggins’ teams.
“I’m playing better, but I can still improve,” said Connor. “I thought I did pretty well (Saturday) but I can still improve.”
“He came in and made three big shots for us,” said Huggins. “He did a pretty good job defensively, too.
“Everybody’s looking at each other on the bench when he comes in, because he hasn’t played in so long. They’re saying, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ But he can make shots.”
Connor admitted it’s been frustrating at times not being able to get significant minutes, but he said he’s continued to work and “pay his dues.” He said he’s just trying to make the most of every opportunity, and he’s confident the decision to attend WVU was the right one.
“It’s been a lot of fun seeing the progress,” he said. “I’m enjoying it, and I’m going to keep giving it everything I have.”
n n n
Connor wasn’t the only former area standout to get in the scorebook for the Mountaineers Saturday. Greenbrier East graduate Richard Romeo made the most of his two minutes of action, scoring his second basket of the season.
The sophomore walk-on has four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes of action this season.
“We’re fortunate here with (Chase) and Richard Romeo,” said Huggins. “We get good walk-ons with good strength. Chase turned down some Division I offers to come here.
“They love the university and the state so much. They grow up dreaming of playing here.”
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.