Despite an offseason of turnover and a summer of questions, head coach Bob Huggins’ roster will feature plenty of talent during the 2021-22 season.
Huggins has filled needs via recruiting and the transfer portal, adding a trio of fifth-year athletes who could step into major roles this season. He also returns a healthy dose of players who have completed at least one season in Morgantown.
These are the eight familiar faces on this year’s roster and what they’ll bring to the table:
Taz Sherman (Fifth-year / 13.4 points per game in 2020-21)
One of two players to test draft waters this summer, Sherman will return to WVU to take advantage of a bonus year of eligibility. He’ll be one of five fifth-year players on the roster.
A lot of fans — and even ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla — were rooting for him to come back for one more season:
The reasons why are obvious. Sherman is WVU’s top returning scorer from last season, and it seems as though he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. He made 41 percent of his field goals and 36 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
Gabe Osabuohien (Fifth-year / 1.7 ppg in 2020-21)
Another fifth-year guy, Osabuohien committed to playing a bonus season shortly after the Mountaineers were bounced from the NCAA Tournament.
The All-Big 12 Defensive Team honoree will again be a valuable asset for the Mountaineers. He averaged 17.6 minutes per game last season, ranked second on the team in steals with 41 and averaged 4.4 rebounds per game. Notably, he is the team’s top returning rebounder, but it’s likely that incoming transfers Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan will bolster the roster in that category.
Sean McNeil (Senior / 12.2 ppg in 2020-21)
Like Sherman, McNeil withdrew from the NDA Draft pool this summer, but could have draft potential if he churns out stellar numbers next season.
McNeil will be the team’s second-best returning scorer after sinking 41 percent of his field goal attempts last season. He also led the roster in 3-point attempts, taking 47 more (and making 22 more) than Sherman.
Out of all the players returning to the roster, basketball analyst Warren Baker thinks McNeil might have the most to give.
“You could just see the confidence oozing out of him down the stretch of the year. He really started shooting the ball well, and he was just a kid that was, hey, ‘listen, give me the ball, I know what I can do,’” Baker said. “When he first came to WVU, he didn’t have that. It took him a while to adjust to the situation at West Virginia, which it does with most new guys coming in. But I think this year, he’s gonna have an even bigger year if he can stay healthy.”
Kedrian Johnson (Senior / 1.3 ppg in 2020-21)
The junior college transfer has completed one season at WVU. He appeared in 26 games off the bench, averaging 7.4 minutes per game, and provided a spark particularly on defense.
The Young Guns
Jalen Bridges (Sophomore / 5.9 ppg in 2020-21)
After taking a redshirt year, Bridges produced solid numbers in his debut season. He played limited minutes during the nonconference portion of the team’s schedule, but that changed when Oscar Tshiebwe left the program.
Bridges played 12 or more minutes in every game after Tshiebwe’s departure, logging double figures in points on six occasions, including once in the NCAA Tournament. His minutes per game average also ranks third among returning Mountaineers, trailing only McNeil and Sherman.
Bridges shot just under 50 percent from the field last season, including 40 percent from 3-point range, proving that he’s an efficient shooter at all three levels, but improvements as a rim attacker and rebounder could go a long way to helping this team in wake of Derek Culver’s departure.
Isaiah Cottrell (Redshirt Freshman / 1.6 ppg in 2020-21)
The native of Las Vegas, Nev., saw his freshman season in Morgantown cut short after just 10 appearances due to an achilles injury, but Huggins noted in June that he expects Cottrell will be “full go” for the upcoming season.
If that’s the case, the rangy forward could become the team’s X-factor.
Cottrell only averaged 5.6 minutes per game and shot 33 percent from the floor in his injury-shortened debut season. He also went 0-6 from 3-point range. Those stats don’t reflect his versatility.
Like Bridges, Cottrell is a forward who can both attack the rim and score from the perimeter — and he even has three inches on his comrade from Fairmont. With Culver, a former All-Big 12 First Team honoree, no longer a Mountaineer, Cottrell will likely be asked to play a big role.
If he is ready to go at the start of the new season, he’ll be one of the players to watch on this team, according to Baker.
“He has to stay healthy. That’s very, very important,” Baker said. “Plus, we have two other big guys who are coming in from other schools, and this is their fifth year. Huggs doesn’t bring guys in who are fifth years who are gonna sit the bench. So, those guys are gonna have to step up inside and help out Cottrell. I think that’s huge.”
The Guys with Something to Prove
Seny N’diaye (Sophomore / 0.1 ppg in 2020-21)
The native of Dakar, Senegal, was a late addition to the roster last season, signing his national letter of intent last July. He appeared in 14 games and logged 37 minutes.
His lone points of the season came against Kansas State in January.
Taj Thweatt (Sophomore / 0.4 ppg in 2020-21)
The New Jersey native made just nine appearances and logged 23 minutes as a true freshman. He registered field goals against Richmond in nononference play and Morehead State in the NCAA Tournament. He also appeared against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament.
As a recruit, Thweatt’s athleticism appealed to Huggins. He’s capable of playing multiple positions and can defend the perimeter.