Busting Brackets

West Virginia Basketball: Analyzing Mountaineers 2021 recruiting class

West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins calls during a SEC/Big 12 Challenge game between Tennessee and West Virginia at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, January 26, 2019.Kns Vols Bball Wvu
West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins calls during a SEC/Big 12 Challenge game between Tennessee and West Virginia at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, January 26, 2019.Kns Vols Bball Wvu /

Bob Huggins and West Virginia Basketball suffered major departures this summer. How did they do in trying to replace those that departed?

West Virginia is coming off a fine season, going 19-10 and 11-6 in Big 12 play, marking the Mountaineers’ seventh winning campaign in the last eight years until coach Bob Huggins. However, the Mountaineers saw leading scorer Miles McBride and top rebounder Derrick Culver decide to turn pro while starting small forward Emmitt Mathews Jr. transferred. WVU also lost center Oscar Tschiebwe during the season.

Huggins is not considered a great recruiter, but he generally brings in at least one four-star recruit. How did the Mountaineers do in 2021?

James Okonkwo

The 6-8, 230-pound athletic forward is a project as he is relatively raw and pretty new to the game. Okonkwo, originally from England, is just 17 years old and was originally slated to attend Beckley Prep this season. However, a scholarship opened up with Miles McBride remaining in the NBA draft.

"“James is 17 years old, 6-foot-8, and can run and jump,” Huggins said in the press release announcing his signing. “He’s had a great summer, and James is a very good rebounder and shot-blocker."

Expect Okonkwo to redshirt this season, but he should be a valuable player for years to come.

Seth Wilson

The consensus 3-star recruit averaged 22.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.4 assists last year for Lorain high school. Wilson, who is well built and has a strong body, is a slasher that loves contact and is a good finisher. He can also shoot it from beyond the arc and is a very good rebounder.

While the Mountaineers aren’t very deep in the backcourt, Wilson likely won’t see much time unless he can beat out Johnson on the depth chart.

Kobe Johnson

The 6-3 3-star point guard averaged 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while leading, shooting 51.1% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc for Canton McKinley. A top 200 recruit, according to 247Sports, Johnson is an elite scorer with a smooth stroke. He can also get to the rim and is an outstanding defender.

WVU is not very deep at guard, so Johnson could see some time, although I don’t expect to see 10 minutes a game.

Jamel King

The consensus 3-star forward averaged 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists while shooting 53% from beyond the arc for Bella Vista Prep last year as a postgraduate. He was rated as the No. 166 player by 247Sports Composite.

"“We think Jamel is a guy with a really bright future,” Huggins said. “He has size, but he also has the agility and skill level of a smaller player on the court."

King is the readiest of the incoming freshmen and may have the easiest path to playing time as Taj Thweat saw limited time last season.

Pauly Paulicap

The 6-8 athletic forward has made WVU his fourth collegiate stop after playing at Harcum College, Manhattan, and DePaul. He is a strong rebounder and an outstanding shot-blocker. Paulicap has posted 43 games in double-figure scoring with 12 double-figure rebounding games in his career. The Elmont (N.Y) native averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 caroms last year with DePaul.

Paulicap will see plenty of time in the Mountaineers frontcourt, either as a starter or one of the top bench players. I expect him to see around 20 minutes a contest.

Dimon Carrigan

The 6-9 athletic transfer from FIU is an outstanding shot-blocker and offensive rebounder. He is also a good scorer around the rim and a strong defender overall. A year ago, Carrigan averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds (2.4 offensive), 1.1 steals, and 2.5 blocks.  The Boston native also heard from Murray State, Hofstra, Duquesne, and Montana.

Carrigan will be counted on heavily, particularly as a rim protector. He should see at least 20-25 minutes, most likely as the Mountaineers starting center or power forward.

Malik Curry

The 6-1 guard will finish his career in Morgantown after transferring from Old Dominion, where he led the Monarchs in scoring, steals, and assists. He averaged 15.7 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on his way to second-team all-Conference USA honors. Curry also scored in double-figures in 19 of 20 games and shot 45.6% from the field as well as 85.2% from the free-throw line.

Curry, who can get to the basket and find open men, is expected to start at point guard.

Bottom line: Huggins brought in a lot of experience with the three transfers; however, each of those players has just one year of eligibility remaining.

dark. Next. Breaking down Big 12 expansion candidates

While each of the transfers will play a significant role, and they fit well with Huggins’ philosophy, I don’t think WVU is any better than last season. Moreover, the freshman class is probably a year away from making any significant impact. Grade C-.