West Virginia officially announced the signing of the 6-foot-7 Lamont West Monday, which puts a lid on the 2015 recruiting class. West gives the Mountaineers a useful late addition after losing BillyDee Williams to a transfer. By whatever indications were available at that stage of the recruiting cycle, West was no worse than near the top of whatever remained of WVU’s wish list, meaning the Mountaineers simply got one of those “best available” players. They didn’t get the best guard or the best big or the best wing. They acquired a commodity.
I feel like this is a really important development.
I don’t know what you can reasonably assume or expect West to do next season, and that’s more or less the point. Really, ever since the 2011 season, when WVU waved goodbye to Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman, John Flowers, Casey Mitchell, Jonnie West and Dalton Pepper (and I guess Dan Jennings, too), the Mountaineers had been in the habit of recruiting replacements as opposed to recruiting recruits. (I know WVU lost Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and Wellington Smith after the Final Four season, but the 2011 roster was in good shape, and the recruits — Kevin Noreen, Noah Cottrill, David Nyarsuk and Darrious Curry — weren’t brought in with the idea of being immediate replacement parts.)
The 2011 recruiting class was a mess, we know, but we ought to remember just how much WVU needed those players. Attrition happened through the years, and WVU was similarly newcomer-needy in 2012, 2013 and even 2014. Those were bad places to be in, and things did not go well up until this season, when Bob Huggins hit on both his recruits and a style that suited their skill and his wishes.
But now look at the 2015 class capped by Best Available West. Beetle Bolden is a quick point guard we think can help WVU with points in the paint. Teyvon Myers is a prolific scoring guard. Esa Ahmad is a versatile frontcourt player. It would appear Ahmad is firmly in the middle of WVU’s 2015-16 plans, because he’s just that good, but also because there’s a need. WVU hasn’t had that flexible wing player in a while.
He’s also the best recruit since Ebanks, but I think there’s a fair though not even comparison there as to what he can do across different positions — and he’s probably a better scorer than Ebanks. But if West, Bolden and even Myers had minimal impacts (and figure Myers will get some burn because WVU desperately needs shot-creators and shot-makers to lighten the load on the offense), would WVU be in a bad mood at the end of the season? You’d think not, because fate does not rest upon their shoulders. Though the Mountaineers will miss Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, you got a good look at the future late last season when both were out and Jevon Carter and Dax Miles filled in and other parts, namely Devin Williams, stepped forward, and things worked reasonably well.
It’s not unlike the roster strife Dana Holgorsen worked through on the football side. Bob Huggins was also relying a lot on first-year players, which you can safely assume led to some subsequent bold and fruitless recruiting endeavors. He no longer in the same position and figures to benefit from balance on his roster and a process in his program.