MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — You could almost break down the success rate of West Virginia’s men’s basketball guard rotation in two ways:
Either with “Beetle” Bolden in the lineup or without Bolden.
As far as how much success the 13th-ranked Mountaineers find early in the season, a portion will depend on how much Bolden can play.
“He’s the leader,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of his junior point guard. “He’s the one they all look to. He’s done a great job of taking over a leadership role.”
Bolden’s role has been limited in the preseason due to stretched ligaments in his left hand that have been slow to heal.
He is not expected to play at noon today, when the Mountaineers host Penn State in an exhibition game. WVU forward Sagaba Konate is dealing with an injured knee, but will play on a limited basis.
Tickets to the exhbition are $10 and proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross’ hurricane relief efforts.
Huggins called Bolden’s injury a freak occurrence, saying it happened during a defensive drill in practice when Bolden got his thumb caught in a teammate’s jersey.
“The leadership aspect is noticeable when Beetle is out there as opposed to him not being on the floor,” WVU guard Chase Harler said. “I still understand what coach Huggins wants, but it helps having that other guy out there, too, that can help with that.”
Bolden shot nearly 42 percent from 3-point range last season and averaged 8.7 points per game last season, yet Huggins believes Bolden’s biggest impact may come in the Mountaineers’ full-court pressure defense, which forced 24 turnovers in a scrimmage against Purdue last week, but is still far from a finished product.
“It’s a work in progress,” Huggins said. “We’re not very good at it, yet. Our rotations aren’t very good. We have so many new guys who don’t understand how hard you have to play.”
Konate excited to get going
For those involved with the inner workings of West Virginia’s program, seeing Konate expand his offensive game beyond the 3-point line was never really a big deal.
“He proved he could make the foul-line jumper last year,” Harler said. “He’s got good form and good mechanics. I wasn’t surprised he started hitting threes. Coaches told him he had to work on 3-point shooting over the summer and he did.”
Konate, though, knows very few outside of the program has seen that part of his game.
“I’m excited to play here and show people what I can do,” Konate said. “To me, anything is possible. The work I have put into the game, I believe in myself that I can do anything.”
There is a discussion on whether opposing defenses will take Konate’s 3-point shot seriously early on.
“Probably not,” Harler said. “The first two or three, they’ll probably leave him open.
“That will be good for our spacing, too. He starts making them, their big guy has to go out and respect his shot. That gets the big guy out of the middle and opens up driving lanes.”
Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions finished 26-13 and won the NIT with an 82-66 victory against Utah.
The Nittany Lions lost two starters from that team, including guard Tony Carr, who averaged 19.6 points per game last season and was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by New Orleans.
Penn State does return 6-foot-8 forward Lamar Stevens (15.5 ppg), 6-foot-9 forward John Harrar and 6-foot-4 guard Josh Reaves (10.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Mike Watkins is another talented forward at 6-foot-9 and 254 pounds. He averaged 12 points per game last season, but missed the team’s postseason run.
The game will be televised by AT&T SportsNet (Comcast channels 37, 843; DirecTV 659 and Dish Network 428).