WVU hoops roster breakdown: newcomers and departures

Gold and Blue Nation

Veterans added via transfer portal likely to play critical roles when new season begins

The NBA Draft is over. All of Bob Huggins’ players have finalized their decisions about their futures, and the roster for the 2021-22 season has taken shape. 

But with seven newcomers set to replace six departing players, his team’s identity is still under construction. 

“We need to be able to do something defensively that is different than what we did, be it some kind of zone, some kind of half-court, something,” Huggins said. “You look back to when we were really good, we were really good because we kept people off balance.”

We’ll take a closer look at each newcomer and what he can bring to the table, but first, these are the players that have left the program. 

Departures

G Miles McBride (15.9 ppg in 2020-21)

The All-Big 12 guard is now a New York Knick after he was selected at No. 36 overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft. His stock soared after a phenomenal sophomore season, during which he led the Mountaineers in scoring, assists and steals. 

The loss of McBride represents a big hole in the West Virginia roster from a reliability, production and leadership standpoint. He logged 30 or more minutes in 24 of WVU’s 29 contests, scored 30 or more points in two games and was the team’s go-to guy in key moments. 

G Jordan McCabe (2.2 ppg)

As McBride’s production increased, McCabe saw his role diminish. Once the squad’s starting point guard, McCabe made just five starts in his junior season before transferring to UNLV. 

The highly touted recruit from Wisconsin, known for his impeccable ball-handling skills, played arguably his best season as a true freshman in 2018-19. He did so out of necessity — he was thrust into the staring lineup on a team that won just 15 games, averaging 5.8 points per game, 18.5 minutes per game and logging 88 total assists. 

His averages decreased nearly across the board in his second and third seasons at WVU. 

F Derek Culver (14.3 ppg)

West Virginia’s star forward was the only big man to earn All-Big 12 First Team recognition last season, but shortly after the season ended, he signed with an agent and announced he would forgo his remaining college eligibility in pursuit of a pro career. Culver was not selected in Thursday’s draft. 

Along with being one of the top scorers in the Big 12 last season, he led the conference in rebounding, averaging nearly 10 per game. He also led WVU in blocked shots with 24, but that number barely placed him in the top 10 among Big 12 shot blockers. 

F Emmitt Matthews Jr. (7.7 ppg)

Mathews arrived in Morgantown as part of the same recruiting class as Culver and McCabe. He also departed from the program around the same time. 

The native of Tacoma, Wash., entered the transfer portal shortly after the season ended and wound up much closer to home, transferring to Washington. He started in 25 of West Virginia’s 29 games in his junior season and ranked third on the team in total rebounds. 

G Spencer Macke

The fan-favorite walk-on is no longer listed on the team’s roster. He appeared in three contests last season but did not register a point. 

G Jay Moore

Another walk-on who has left the team. Moore, a West Virginia native, scored against Kansas State in February.

Newcomers

G Malik Curry (15.6 ppg last season at Old Dominion)

After a junior college stint, Curry played two seasons at ODU, leading the team in scoring each year. He appears to a player who could serve as a legitimate replacement for McBride’s production — and is possibly more dynamic in some ways. 

While Curry’s numbers in assists (71) and steals (37) lagged behind McBride’s output in those categories last season, he excels in one specific area: attacking the rim. The Mountaineers lacked a strong dribble-drive presence last year, and Curry could give them a jolt in that category. 

Curry joins the Mountaineers as a fifth-year player, using his COVID eligibility waiver to play a bonus season. Here’s what WVU hoops analyst and former Mountaineer Warren Baker thinks about the incoming transfer:

F Dimon Carrigan (6.8 ppg last season at Florida International) 

Carrigan’s scoring average isn’t eye-popping, but scoring might not be what he’s asked to do at WVU. Like Curry, Carrigan appears to be molded for a very specific role: blocking shots. 

The fifth-year transfer ranked among the top 20 shot blockers in college basketball last season, recording 60 blocks. That more than doubles Culver’s output from his final season with the Mountaineers. 

Additionally, Carrigan’s 2.5 blocks per game average was comparable to that of West Virginia’s team average of 2.82. 

F Pauly Paulicap (7.2 ppg last season at DePaul)

Like Curry and Carrigan, Paulicap joins the Mountaineers as a fifth-year player. He played most of his collegiate career at Manhattan before joining DePaul last season as a grad transfer. 

At DePaul, the 6-8 big man also averaged 6.1 rebounds per game. 

Huggins hopes Carrigan and Paulicap will make the Mountaineers more dynamic on defense. 

“We don’t have [Sagaba Konate]. We probably are never, ever gonna have another Sags,” Huggins said. “But we gotta do a better job guarding the ball, and we hope that those guys in the back can be an influence, that’s all. Be an influence. They don’t have to block shots, but if they can change shots, that would be terrific.” 

G Kobe Johnson

One of two high school recruits from Ohio who has joined the Mountaineers, the 6-4 guard was one of the top prospects in his state. His coach, Andy Vlajkovich, also coached Culver in high school. 

“Kobe will be an outstanding contributor to our perimeter play,” Huggins said of Johnson in November when the player signed.

G Seth Wilson 

Another talented incoming freshman from Ohio, the 6-3 Wilson impressed Huggins with his shooting ability. 

“He gives us great versatility and can play at point guard or move to the wing with his shooting ability,” Huggins said. “Seth will be a great asset to our backcourt.”

Wilson began his high school hoops career at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, where he nearly broke a freshman scoring record set by Lebron James as his squad won the Division II state title. 

F Jamel King 

After originally signing with New Mexico, King has joined the Mountaineers for his upcoming freshman campaign. He averaged 23 points and six rebounds per game during his senior season at Paul Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Last year, he attended Bella Visit Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona, and averaged 16 points per game. 

“We were looking for people who fit a need, and he fits some of our needs,” Huggins said. 

F James Okonkwo 

The native of Maidenhead, England, is a unique story. Last week, Okonkwo reclassified and signed with the Mountaineers, planning to enroll for the fall semester at WVU as a freshman. 

He is expected to redshirt for the 2021-22 season. 

“James is 17 years old, he’s 6-foot-8 and can run and jump,” Huggins said. “He’s had a great summer, and James is a very good rebounder and shot blocker. He will fit in extremely well with our style of play.”

Okonkwo attended Beckley Prep last year, but was limited due to a broken finger and COVID-19. 

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