MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Mountaineers will be without starting point guard Kedrian Johnson against Kansas on Saturday as the fifth-year guard recovers from a concussion.
This will be a first for this year’s iteration of WVU hoops. Johnson is one of WVU’s top minutes-getters and is on the court for about 65 percent of the season.
There’s a reason for that.
“I’ve said from the beginning, I think he’s the best on-ball defender in our league, which says a lot,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “That puts a lot of pressure on the guys that are filling in for him.”
Joe Toussaint will likely get the start in his place, his first for the season so far. Luckily, he shares a lot of qualities with Johnson, including a high defensive work rate and on-court leadership.
The added responsibility won’t just be on Toussaint, however, The entire guard corps will have heightened responsibility in every facet of the game, whether it be defense, ball-handling or passing.
“We’re obviously a man down heading into the biggest two-game stretch of the season so far, but we’ve got plenty of guys that can step up and play,” said guard Erik Stevenson. “As for ball-handling, obviously, we’re going to start Joe at the one, and if he gets in foul trouble or needs a break, then I can slide to the one and handle that, or Kobe [Johnson].”
Luckily for the Mountaineers, Stevenson has shown no lack of confidence in his abilities, but it will be important for his teammates to match that. Putting that sentiment into practice could be the difference between a win and a loss against the third-ranked team in the nation.
“It’s just a matter of having our guys believing in themselves, being confident in themselves that they can make plays, and being smart out there,” Stevenson added. “Not making stupid fouls and staying on the floor, because when we have certain guys on the floor, we can beat anyone in the country.”