The Biggest Busts in West Virginia Sports History

There aren’t many five star recruits that decide to attend West Virginia University.  In the modern era, Noel Devine, a superbly talented running back from North Fort Myers, Florida, and Jason Gwaltney, a bruising, punishing power back from North Babylon, New York, are the only two consensus five star prospects to end up playing football for the Mountaineers.

In basketball, only Chris Brooks, Devin Ebanks and a point guard from Richmond, Virginia named Jonathan Hargett were considered five star, blue chip prospects by virtually everyone in the country.

While Devine, Brooks and Ebanks went on to successful collegiate careers, Jason Gwaltney and Jonathan Hargett’s time at West Virginia was filled with disappointment after disappointment.

Jason Gwaltney had it all.  He had the speed, athleticism and power to be one of the most dominant running backs in college football history.  Many scouts compared him to Jim Brown.  Gwaltney was a Top 10 prospect out of high school and was recruited by every major football program in the country.  He briefly committed to USC before ultimately deciding to join then-Head Coach Rich Rodriguez’s dynamic spread offense.

When he announced his commitment to WVU, Gwaltney declared, “I’m for real. You’ll see me in the NFL.”  He went on to say that he would start as a true freshman and rush for over 1,500 yards.  However, Gwaltney would only ever appear in six games for the Mountaineers in 2005, finishing with 45 carries for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Although Rodriguez gave him every opportunity in the world, Gwaltney had academic and off the field issues, as well as several injuries.  Rodriguez later said that Gwaltney was not ready for the mature lifestyle of a student-athlete.  He ultimately ended up at Kean University, a Division III school, and ended up setting a single season rushing record.  In 2011, he entered the NFL Draft and hoped to play professionally, but went undrafted.  Gwaltney was arrested in 2013 for his part in a home invasion.

Jonathan Hargett’s story didn’t end much better.  Hargett was compared to Allen Iverson out of high school and was considered a legend by several former NBA players.  Like Gwaltney, Hargett had the physical ability to be one of the best ever.  His 44 inch vertical leap and incredible ability to get to the basket made him virtually unstoppable.

The only person that could stop Jonathan Hargett was Jonathan Hargett.  During his senior year in high school, Hargett did not want to attend West Virginia University.  However, as he tells it, he was offered $20,000 and they promised to hire his brother as an assistant coach.  Although his brother passed away before Hargett graduated from high school, he honored his brother’s wishes and chose West Virginia.

According to an interview with the New York Times, “He was going to be a coach, and they were going to give him a house,” Hargett said of West Virginia and his brother. “At the time, he had three kids.”

Hargett ultimately only ended up playing one year with the Mountaineers.  Although the team got off to a 7-2 start, the Mountaineers lost 18 of their final 19 games, finishing 1-15 in the Big East.  Hargett, who averaged 13.8 points on 30% from the field and 4.6 assists, was often injured and played selfishly under Head Coach Gale Catlett.  Catlett ended up stepping down in the middle of the season and officially retiring at the end of the season.  After Hargett left West Virginia, he attempted to play in the NBA, but failed to be drafted and was later arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Gwaltney and Hargett had unlimited potential.  Both players were Top 10 players in their respective recruiting classes and were universally considered can’t-miss prospects.  Unfortunately, neither lived up to the incredible hype surrounding them.