WVU associate head coach Larry Harrison has liked what he’s seen from the Mountaineer guards so far this season. It’s the position group that Harrison works with daily, and he’s excited to see how they perform against Big 12 competition.
“Every day they bring it. They all have different roles in practice and game situations, so I have a good group,” Harrison said recently in an exclusive interview for The Bob Huggins Show. “I think they are going to do really well in the Big 12.”
With the versatility Harrison has at his disposable, he provided a breakdown of the roles of the six guards:
- Fifth-year Kedrian Johnson and senior Joe Toussiant – intensity and energy on defense
Bob Huggins referred to Johnson as one of the premiere on-the-ball defenders in college hoops. While Johnson’s impact comes on the defensive end, the head coach has tasked him with becoming more aggressive on offense this season. He’s reached double figures in scoring in four games, including last time out against Stony Brook when he matched his career-high with 18 points.
Johnson is WVU’s fifth-leading scorer with an average of 9.6 points per game, and he leads the team in steals (23) and assists (40).
Toussiant is West Virginia’s go-to guy off the bench. He’s averaging 10.8 points per game and has proved there is no drop-off on defense when he comes in to replace Johnson. Toussiant is right behind him with 39 assists on the year and No. 3 in steals with 12.
The Iowa transfer joked earlier in the year that he and Johnson aren’t on the floor together often because they foul too much. He also said competing against each other every day in practice has had an immediate impact on his game.
“To have those two go at each other day, it’s kind of like they get a break from each other in a game situation. They rev it up,” Harrison said. “They play even harder in the games but they sometimes tell me practice is harder than the games, which is a good thing to see as a coach because it shows they are very competitive. For those two to go against each other, it makes each one better and our team better.”
Harrison added Johnson and Toussaint have similar playing styles when it comes to applying on-ball pressure and staying in front of their man defensively. The lone difference is Johnson is slightly taller.
As far as their offensive performance, Harrison said, “we get what we get” from them.
“Not saying that they can’t score, but we don’t look at them as our primary scorers. Hopefully, they will continue to be productive on the offensive end as much as they are on the defensive end.”
- Fifth-year Erik Stevenson and sophomore Seth Willson – perimeter shooting
Stevenson is WVU’s leading scorer with 14.5 points per game. There have only been two occasions this season he hasn’t reached double figures. He’s shooting 53.2 percent from the floor, which ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 Conference. While Stevenson is the guy the Mountaineers rely on for scoring, that isn’t the only role he holds on the team. Whether he’s on the court or the bench, Stevenson provides valuable leadership. Harrison said he also brings something that he believes was missing from last year’s team — toughness.
“He doesn’t lack confidence. He’s very competitive. He’s a guy who is always talking, in both a positive and negative way, but he’s bonded well with our team,” Harrison said. “Offensively, we need scoring from him. We need that toughness and attitude he brings to our team. Maybe last year at times, that toughness part we were a little lacking. Erik brings that and he keeps all the guys together.”
Stevenson said last week that if he doesn’t play with that edge and competitiveness, then he’s just not himself. He said that part of his game was hindered two seasons ago at Washington because he “wasn’t allowed” to play with the type of passion that he’s playing with here at WVU. He described it as “feeling like a tiger in bubble wrap with needles all around me waiting to pop.”
Huggins said while Stevenson does chirp a lot on the court, it isn’t “derogatory” but instead shows how much he enjoys playing the game.
Wilson was WVU’s offensive spark off the bench against Stony Brook. He was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to give the Mountaineers a boost in the second half. After the UAB contest, Huggins said they needed to start getting Wilson and fellow sophomore Kobe Johnson more minutes.
Wilson is one of WVU’s top outsider shooters as he’s connecting on 45.2 percent of his three-pointers.
“He has to continue to be aggressive on the offensive end. He understands we need him to shoot the ball. We need him to be an instant offense type of guy. He needs to continue on that path,” Harrison said.
- Sophomore Kobe Johnson – can play and guard multiple positions
According to Harrison, Johnson brings stability to the guard position. He’s made two consecutive starts in Emmitt Matthews’ absence and also started the opening two games of the season as Tre Mitchell worked his way back from a preseason foot injury.
“He doesn’t make mistakes, he’s always doing the right things but at times, we need him to be more aggressive on the offensive end,” Harrison said. “On the defensive end, he can guard 1-4.”
Last week, Kedrian Johnson was asked about Kobe’s progress and echoed the same thing Harrison said — he’s a great player when he’s aggressive.
Johnson is averaging 13.3 minutes and 3.4 points per game. He’s tallied a season-high seven points twice. As a freshman, he netted a total of 46 points. His current total is 41 through the first 12 games.
- Freshman Josiah Davis – energy from the bench as he waits for his time to come
Harrison said Davis realizes he won’t have an immediate impact on the team as there are a number of veteran players at the position. Right now, Davis is learning what he can from those older players so when his time does come, he’ll be ready in the moment.
The freshman has appeared in five games this season and scored his first points as a Mountaineer against Penn.
“When you have five guards you can rotate in and out, get them in different situations, I think it makes our perimeter game much stronger,” he said.