Hustling Harler has big contributions to help WVU survive 112

At some point, it comes down to a simple decision for all college basketball players.

They are all stars coming out of high school or junior college with dreams of making it big and, one day, making some money playing in the pros.

In high school, their play makes headlines almost daily, and their careers generally include a number of games and memories from state tournaments or AAU championship contests.

Then college comes along.

Some remain stars, and some learn to contribute in other ways.

Those “other ways” rarely show up in a box score; even more rarely will drawing a charge or diving for a loose ball create a major headline the next day in the local paper.

That’s the decision WVU men’s basketball guard Chase Harler has made, and no, it was not exactly an easy choice.

“It pays a toll on your mind,” he said after scoring seven points and adding three rebounds, two steals and two assists in Tuesday’s 57-54 victory, against Baylor. “I feel like I was feeling sorry for myself and I had to get out of that. That’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Like so many of his teammates, Harler was a hometown hero in high school, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year out of Wheeling Central.

He was going to be the next Kevin Pittsnogle, the next sharp-shooter from the Mountain State to make it big with

the Mountaineers.

And that very well may still happen down the road for Harler, who is just a sophomore.

That was not the role he was to play against the Bears, though.

Yes, his seven points were huge in a game that was low scoring, but his toughness was even bigger.

Harler put his body in harm’s way several times, diving for one loose ball after another and guarding players twice his size or twice as fast without complaint.

He rebounded. He defended. He didn’t back down.

None of that spells out big stars and big headlines.

More importantly, though, it spelled out a crucial win for the Mountaineers, who have now won 15 straight games.

“I kind of told myself going into this game that I wasn’t going to waste any more opportunities,” Harler said. “They gave me the opportunity and I tried to seize it.”

Harler did just that and it earned him the start in the second half. That’s when he had his best moments, such as forcing a

10-second violation by staying close to Baylor guard Jake Lindsay and not allowing Lindsay to get across half court.

His offensive rebound with 4:52 remaining kept a possession alive for WVU in a game that was tied at 49 at the time. He followed that with a steal from Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte, considered one of the top point guards in the Big 12.

“He comes to practice and practices hard,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said of Harler. “You have to come in and fulfill your responsibility to your teammates. The reward is playing time. Chase has practiced well, and quite honestly, we are hoping he can make a shot.”

WVU guard James “Beetle” Bolden called it Harler’s best game.

“You need someone who is willing to do the little things that make a difference,” Bolden said. “Chase did that tonight. He gave us a lot of energy.”

And, all of a sudden, that choice to be “that” guy, the role player, isn’t such a bad deal for Harler.

“I’ve always prided myself in being a hustle player,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to do it in front of 13,000 and 14,000 people.”

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