There are more newcomers than returners on this year’s WVU men’s hoops roster and they all bring a different skillset. While there is plenty of excitement surrounding the new additions, the one player that seems to have the most ahead of the upcoming season is senior guard Kerr Kriisa.
Kriisa, a transfer from Arizona, led the Pac-12 in assists last season. He finished with five or more assists in 20 games last year, including a pair with double digits.
“He’s got as good of vision as I’ve ever seen in the college game. It’s going to be great to have him as a coach on the floor,” head coach Josh Eilert said.
The Estonia native’s pass-first mentality is the foundation of his game. He had 180 assists last year and 155 the season prior.
When he initially committed to WVU, he anticipated being the main distributor once again, but with roster turnover, he’s now encouraged to shoot the ball more.
“The first time I chose West Virginia, I saw the roster and thought I could come here and move the ball around. Now, my role has become a little bit different,” Kriisa said. “Now, I actually have to start shooting more. It’s a little weird for sure because of my instincts. I’m a pass-first point guard so it’s hard to be more selfish, I guess.”
Now, Kriisa agreed scoring isn’t a bad thing, it just never was his thing. He always prioritized setting up the scoring for others.
“I just love passing so much,” he said.
However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of racking up points when needed, especially from beyond the arc. He tied for the team lead in three-pointers last year with the Wildcats and averaged 9.9 points per game. He reached double-figure scoring on 18 occasions.
In WVU’s tip-off event Mountaineer Madness, Kriisa nailed eight straight as he and assistant coach Jordan McCabe earned the victory in the three-point contest.
He also showed off his creativity with his passes in the scrimmage portion of the night as he had a few behind-the-back and no-look passes.
“Kerr is a magician,” fifth-year forward Quinn Slazinski said. “I don’t like to tell him this often, I like to keep him humble, but he is a magician. The stuff he does with the basketball I just cannot believe. The ball has almost hit me in the nose four or five times just because I can’t even believe that pass is coming. It’s behind-the-back passes or magic off the backboard.”
Eilert and his staff are still working on the rotations for the new season, but one thing is for certain, Kriisa will set the pace offensively. It’s the other side of the ball that is a work in progress. As Eilert said last week, defense isn’t Kriisa’s strong point but what he does with the ball in his hands negates those deficiencies on the other end of the court.
“I’m not saying Kerr is a bad defender. He’s a very, very active defender but he’s not the most athletic guy out there by any means. He’s smart. He plays the game the right way,” Eilert said. “He understands his weaknesses and that’s the first step in being a good defender, understanding how to cover up some of those things.”