MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ever since Josh Eilert took over as interim head coach of the WVU men’s basketball team, there has been speculation as to who will be the Mountaineers’ premier big men on the hardwood.
Six-foot-11-inch Syracuse transfer Jesse Edwards is a lock to lead the cast of frontcourt players, but after that, there are plenty of questions.
Edwards joins the program coming off a season in which he snagged 10.3 rebounds per game for the Orange. His production on the glass isn’t in question, and his offensive skillset is hoped to open up opportunities for guards on the perimeter.
“He’s as long of a rim-runner out of a pick-and-roll as we’ve ever had,” Eilert said. “Those guys that can handle the ball and throw that up to him, I mean, it’s going to be easy to rack up some assists with him putting that pressure on the rim.”
After Edwards, Eilert noted that sophomore returning forward Josiah Harris is showcasing himself as an aggressive rebounder on both ends of the court, which is considered a highly redeeming quality in forwards.
“I keep telling these guys day-in and day-out [that] if you’re going to rebound and crash the glass, you’re going to stay on the floor,” Eilert said.
Georgetown transfer Akok Akok is one of three Mountaineers listed at 6-foot-10-inches or taller, but he could take on more of a stretch-four role within the WVU offense. Through a few days of fall workouts, Eilert is impressed with Akok’s playmaking ability as a shot-taker and as a defender.
“I have been very, very pleasantly surprised with [Akok],” Eilert said. “He’s shot the ball really well in practice thus far. He’s got a good looking shot. His numbers in the past haven’t really proved it. If you look back at his previous years, but I think he’s going to make shots consistently. Probably, I look to him to shoot as high of a percentage as he has in his career, and I’m going to try to instill that confidence in him. But, probably his best attribute is on the defensive end. He’s so active.”
Akok shot 44.4% from the field (30.9% on three-pointers) in four years with the Hoyas. He also averaged 1.8 blocks and 0.4 steals per game.
With Edwards solidifying himself as the team’s No. 1 center, the power forward position is much more fluid. Eilert is comfortably content with the depth that Akok and Iona transfer Quinn Slazinski provide at power forward. In the meantime, he hopes a few big men can prove versatile as backup centers.
Enter 6-foot-8-inch forward Patrick Suemnick.
“Naturally, [Suemnick] feels like he’s a [forward], but there is a lot of opportunity to back up the [center],” Eilert said. “He’s one of our biggest [and] strongest guys that has been in the program a few years, so he should know what we expect.”
Center Ali Ragab (Gannon) and forward Ofri Naveh (Israel) round out the list of forwards on the WVU roster.