The most well-known basketball players are always those that score points. On this year’s Mountaineer basketball team, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil are always the players fans expect to lead WVU to victory. However, the 2021-2022 Mountaineers are not lacking scoring prowess at any of the 5 positions on the court. Jalen Bridges is a great slasher and three-point shooter. Isaiah Cottrell has a great jump shot and nice touch around the rim. Malik Curry is an elite finisher around the basket. And the list goes on. Much like last year, the team’s biggest issue is defensively and passing, and that’s where this year’s most important player comes in: Gabe Osabuohien.
Gabe Osabuohien is a fan favorite, and rightfully so. He plays with more effort and energy in one game than some players do in a week’s worth of games. His defensive impact for the Mountaineers is elite, and not just compared to this year’s group of Mountaineers but compared to some of the best Big 12 players in the past decade.
Defensive Box Plus Minus (DBPM) is an estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player on a league-average team. Per Sports-Reference.com, Gabe Osabuohien has the 2nd highest career DBPM in the Big 12 since 2010. The only player with a higher DBPM is Jeff Withey, Kansas’s elite shot-blocking center from 2010-2013. Other names you might recognize on this list are Marcus Smart at 3rd, Jevon Carter at 6th, and Sagaba Konate at 11th. If that’s not impressive enough, Gabe’s past two seasons’ DBPM would rank 4th and 5th for the highest single season DBPM in the Big 12 since 2010.
Further, Gabe is extremely valuable when it comes to forcing turnovers. He gets a steal on more than 4% of possessions when he is on the floor. For comparison, he had the most steals per 40 minutes last season (yes, more than Miles McBride) and is currently 3rd on the team, behind only Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry. And this just highlights his importance on the defensive end.
While most consider Gabe as a negative on the offensive end, his presence on the court actually leads to better ball movement. No one would consider Gabe a great ball handler, but his passing is crucial to WVU’s offense, as evidenced by his Assist Percentage. Assist Percentage is a measure of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted on while he was on the floor. Where does Gabe stand on this metric? Gabe has the 2nd highest assist percentage this season with an assist percentage of 19.7%, behind only Taz Sherman. Last season, he was second on the team as well, behind only Miles McBride.
Finally, Gabe brings tremendous value as a rebounder, an area where WVU has struggled mightily this season. This year, Gabe only ranks behind Pauly Paulicap in Total Rebounding Percentage, a measure of the percentage of rebounds a player grabs while he is on the floor. Last year, he was 2rd on the team behind only Derek Culver.
We’ve all had our complaints about this year’s WVU basketball team, from inconsistent effort at times, to spotty defense, and poor rebounding and ball movement. Gabe is the piece to this team that makes it all work, as long as he can stay out of foul trouble.
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