Pieces falling into place with West Virginia hoops roster

NCAA Basketball

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The basketball roster is starting to come together for West Virginia.

It was quite the assignment for new head coach Darian DeVries considering that he was basically charged with building an entirely new roster when he took over in March.

The Mountaineers will return only one player from the 2024-25 roster in sophomore Ofri Naveh and he was limited to just 13.8 minutes per game which turned into just 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds.

That means almost the entire production from last season’s team has departed either through graduation or the transfer portal with seven players leaving the program through the database.

Some of those have already committed to other schools with point guard Kerr Kriisa to Kentucky, forward Patrick Suemnick to DePaul, guard Kobe Johnson to Saint Louis, forward Josiah Harris to Akron and guard Seth Wilson to Akron. Meanwhile guard Noah Farrakhan and guard Jeremiah Bembry are still looking for their next destinations but won’t be returning to Morgantown.

As for the incoming players, DeVries and his coaching staff have been active in the transfer portal filling out the majority of the roster to date.

That started with two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year Tucker DeVries. The son of the head coach, the versatile forward averaged 21.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists for the Bulldogs this past season and 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game the year before.

That is a good starting point for any roster as DeVries is an experienced option that obviously has played in the system and been successful. He is a piece to certainly build around and that’s exactly what DeVries has done so far with a mix of experienced and youthful talent.

On the experienced side, Oklahoma State point guard Javon Small will step into a major role as a facilitator and scorer next to DeVries. The Indiana native was one of the most sought after point guards in the entire transfer portal and is a stat-stuffing option that can do it all.

An even bigger bonus is the fact that there won’t be any concerns about how it translates to the Big 12 because he has already done it averaging 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 44-percent from the field and 37-percent from three last year with the Pokes.

The Mountaineers also added a piece that the coaches prioritized in University of Illinois-Chicago wing Tony Okani. A player that DeVries was familiar with after squaring off against him in the MVC, the 6-foot-8 forward is a versatile option that can fill multiple roles on both ends.

Last season Okani averaged 11.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game while earning Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Team honors and ranking near the top of the MVC in many of the categories on the defensive end of the floor.

Another player that DeVries was familiar with was Washington State guard transfer Joseph Yesufu because he actually coached him during his first two years at Drake. Yesufu spent two seasons with the Bulldogs and had his most productive campaign as he was named the Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 12.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

Yesufu then elected to transfer to Kansas where he appeared in 69 games but was limited to just 2.1 points per game in the first and 4.1 in the second before he transferred yet again to Washington State. There he played in just six games before a hip injury cost him the remainder of the year.

When it comes to the front court, the coaches have added one piece in Fresno State center Eduardo Andre. The 6-foot-11, 248-pounder, started 18 of the 20 games he appeared last season averaging 7.3 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 60-percent from the floor. However, a knee injury cut his season short but the year before he was at 8.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 58-percent from the field and starting the final 15-games of the season.

Andre started his career at Nebraska and is a traditional back-to-the-basket big that is active rebounding the ball and is an effective screener and roller to the basket.

All of those players have just one year remaining in their careers but the Mountaineers also have been active adding players with additional years remaining. A pair of former top 100 recruits from Illinois in forward Amani Hansberry and guard Sencire Harris each have three years left.

Hansberry was the Mayland Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior but was limited to just 7.5 minutes per game in a loaded Illini front court. Still, he was productive averaging 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45-percent from the floor and with increased usage could be a candidate to take off with the Mountaineers during his sophomore season.

Harris spent two years with the Illini but only one of those was spent on the floor as he redshirted last season to focus on improving his strength and developing his game. The year prior the Ohio native appeared in all 33 games as a true freshman and even started seven of those averaging 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. He also shot 43-percent from the floor and 32-percent from three.

An elite on the ball defender, Harris is going to find his way onto the floor based off that alone but is expected to also take a leap on the offensive end as well.

The final pieces are from the high school ranks in Memphis (Tn.) Cordova point guard KJ Tenner and Centerville (Oh.) 2024 guard Jonathan Powell,

Tenner who followed DeVries over from Drake after requesting his release from his letter of intent. Tenner, 6-foot, 165-pounds, is on the smaller end physically for a high-major guard but is a proven scorer.

Tenner is coming off a season where he averaged 21.2 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in route to winning Mr. Basketball in Division 4A in Tennessee.

Powell, 6-foot-6, initially signed with Xavier in November but requested his release and things moved quicky with West Virginia as he made an official visit just a few days later. That trip would result in his commitment giving the program a talented guard with length that can hit shots as well as defend multiple positions.

The first-team all-Ohio selection averaged 19.1 points per game last season and held a number of high level scholarship offers prior to picking the Mountaineers.

It’s certainly a better spot than it was when DeVries took over the program but there’s still work to do in order to round things out to make the Mountaineers competitive in the Big 12. The Mountaineers still need another scorer and another big, among other pieces, but you can see the picture coming into focus when it comes to the basketball roster for next season.

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