Morgantown, West Virginia – “Press Virginia” was born out of necessity. When West Virginia entered the Big 12 in 2013, the team struggled to compete in the new league. In the first season in the Big 12, the Mountaineers finished 13-19 and 6-13 in the conference. In 2014, West Virginia went 17-16 and 9-9.
Head Coach Bob Huggins knew that changes would have to be made for the Mountaineers to get his team over the hump and this is how “Press Virginia” started. Huggins was flexible and adapted a full-court press on virtually every possession. Opposing teams were confused and couldn’t handle the pressure for the entire game.
Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles were only Freshmen, but their toughness and competitiveness was already shining through. The team also featured Seniors Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, Juniors Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige, and Sophomores Tarik Phillip, Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian. In other words, the Mountaineers were loaded.
The “Press Virginia” era featured seasons where the Mountaineers finished 25-10, 26-9, 28-9, 26-11 with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
When Dimon Carrigan, a Florida International transfer, officially signed to play for the Mountaineers last week, the press release spoke volumes. Huggins said the following of signing Carrigan: “Our plan is to play pressure defense and with that, you need a shot blocker.”
Carrigan, who averaged 2.5 block shots per game last season, is precisely the rim protecotr that West Virginia lacked last season. Carrigan is also the perfect player to play at the top of the press. Jonathan Holton and Nathan Adrian played this role previously and made it difficult/nearly impossible for opposing teams to inbound the ball.
Huggins’ decision to return to a pressure, attacking defense is a welcome sign of hope and possibilities for next season’s team. The Mountaineers have lost Emmitt Matthews, Jr. and Jordan McCabe, will likely lose Derek Culver and could potentially also lose Miles “Deuce” McBride, Taz Sherman and/or Sean McNeil.
The return of Press Virginia, however, makes Huggins’ team dangerous regardless of who returns or leaves.
Derek Culver is almost certainly gone. The chances of him playing for the Mountaineers next season is less than 5% at this point. Miles McBride and Taz Sherman are approximately 40% likely to return. Sean McNeil will probably be back.
With this said, the team will still have incredible depth. Transfer Malik Curry will take over as the new starting point guard if McBride remains in the 2021 NBA Draft and Sean McNeil will remain the starter at the other guard position. Expect sophomore Taj Thweatt to make huge strides and Jalen Bridges to take his game to another level. If Isaiah Cottrell is healthy, he will be a force in the starting lineup at center. If he’s not quite ready, Huggins will turn to one of the several transfers that hes actively recruiting to replace Culver (see: Pauly Paulicap and Joel Soriano).
Gabe Osabuohien, Kedrian Johnson and Seny N’diaye return as outstanding defenders off the bench, and will be joined by transfer Dimon Carrigan and freshmen Seth Wilson and Kobe Johnson.
In the worst case scenario – if McBride, Culver and Sherman all leave – West Virginia is still loaded with talent. This is an active, competitive, defensive-minded bunch that is exactly the type of roster that Huggins needs to bring back Press Virginia in full force!
2021-22 #WVU Current Projected Rotation
PG Malik Curry
SG Sean McNeil
F Taj Thweatt
F Jalen Bridges
C Isaiah Cottrell (healthy)/Transfer (Pauly Paulicap, Joel Soriano)
— The Voice of Motown (@voicemorgantown) April 12, 2021