The Dominion Post  

Talk with Huggs helped WVU’s Ahmad care about rebounds

Created on:   Fri, Mar 2, 2018   11:30 PM

Last modified:   Fri, Mar 2, 2018   11:30 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — There is a vision in the mind of WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins when it comes to junior forward Esa Ahmad.

The coach sees a powerful 6-foot-8 Ahmad playing on the perimeter, generally being guarded by players who are not as big or as strong.

Huggins has often talked of Ahmad’s potential to develop into a match-up nightmare and how he should be the best rebounding small forward in the Big 12.

As the 20th-ranked Mountaineers (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) prepare to face Texas (17-13, 7-10), at noon March 3, in the regular-season finale for both schools, Ahmad knows he has not lived up to his end of that potential.

He said it was a private coach-player discussion with Huggins that helped him realize what else he could achieve.

“It was a cool talk,” Ahmad said. “It wasn’t heated or anything. I just tried to listen to him and take in everything. I needed it. I knew it and he did, too. Since then, I’ve been trying to do what he tells me.”

Ahmad’s basketball resume is now open to double-double potential.

That’s what Ahmad has done in the Mountaineers’ last two games, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds against Iowa State, on Feb. 24, and 11 points and 11 rebounds against Texas Tech, on Monday.

In the other 80 games Ahmad has played over his college career, he had just one double-double.

“He’s playing harder,” Huggins said. “I think he was trying to feel his way through for a while, but he’s playing harder now. He’s giving us effort. When he gives us effort, he’s going to get things done. He got 11 rebounds, which is going to happen when he gives us effort.”

It’s a conscience effort, Ahmad said, to get into position and go after a rebound that may not exactly be in his area, instead of simply running back down the floor to get ready for an offensive possession.

“I’m trying to get every ball that comes off the rim now,” Ahmad said. “That was probably one of my biggest weaknesses before. Now, I’m trying to stay aggressive.”

The Mountaineers, out-rebounded in two of their last three games, will be facing a Texas team going through its own rough transition.

Texas lost five of its last seven and may be without three of its top players today.

Sophomore guard Andrew Jones will be out and his battle with leukemia continues, even though he was released from a hospital on Feb. 26, and is receiving treatment as an outpatient.

Junior guard Eric Davis Jr. is also expected to be out. His name surfaced in a Yahoo! Sports report about the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. The report stated Davis accepted a $1,500 loan from an ex-agent.

Freshman forward Mohamed Bamba missed the Longhorns’ 80-70 loss against Kansas, on Monday, with an injured toe. Huggins said Thursday that the Mountaineers were preparing as if Bamba would play.

As for Big 12 tournament seeding, WVU needs a win, or a loss by Texas Tech, to secure the No. 2 seed. It would be the third consecutive season the Mountaineers earned the No. 2 seed.

“We’ve talked to them about the importance of winning at Texas and how it would mean it would guarantee the No. 2 seed,” Huggins said. “That means you don’t play the No. 1 seed until the final game of the tournament, if everything works right.”