West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley a man on the move

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Moving around is nearly as much a part of Jermaine Haley’s life as breakfast or basketball practice.

West Virginia’s 6-foot-7 guard, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, began his college career at New Mexico State before he wanted a fresh start and attended Odessa (Texas) Junior College as a sophomore.

He signed with the Mountaineers in hopes his moving around had come to an end, when they were actually just starting.

“I think he can play a lot of positions,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We have played him at small forward. He’s a better shooter than he acts like he is. He’s always been a pass-first guy.”

Haley’s tall and athletic frame make him a candidate to switch from point guard to shooting guard or small forward.

His struggles to shoot the ball have also made him a candidate sometimes to watch from the bench.

Welcome to life as a West Virginia guard, where you can be a starting point guard one minute and struggling to get into the game the next.

“I’ve been trying to adjust,” Haley said. “I’m trying to figure out what exactly [Huggins] wants me to do.

“I know I can do a lot of different things, but I know that different nights may mean different things. I just have to get more comfortable with my role and continue to help the team.”

Hand and elbow injuries to Beetle Bolden earlier this season meant a starting gig for Haley and Brandon Knapper that lasted all of one game.

Based on what Huggins sees from his cast of point guards in practice, sometimes means playing minutes in games can fluctuate.

Some examples:

♦ Haley played four minutes in the season opener against Buffalo, but then played 26 against Florida. He started against St. Joseph’s and played 15 minutes, but played two more minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 69-59 victory against Pitt.

♦ Freshman Jordan McCabe has yet to start a game, but played 18 minutes against Rider and Valparaiso. His playing time has been cut recently; five minutes against Florida and he did not see action against Pitt.

“We played three point guards,” Huggins said after the game. “It’s hard to play four point guards.”

When McCabe sees action or whenever WVU shooting guard Chase Harler is out of the game, it generally means WVU is playing with two point guards.

If it’s McCabe and a combination of Knapper or Bolden, then the Mountaineers are playing small at the guards — neither of those three players are listed above 6-foot.

That can be a dangerous matchup defensively for the Mountaineers (6-3), who are preparing to face Rhode Island (4-3), at 1 p.m. Sunday, at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

Haley’s size makes West Virginia’s defensive matchups more manageable.

“He can see over the defense,” Huggins said. “Those other guys are really small. They have to look under somebody’s arm to see open guys. He can see over people. I like that. I like his length and he gives us another rebounder.”

The counter is if West Virginia is playing a team with smaller and faster guards, then Haley may have a harder time handling the ball.

“Different matchups and different teams can mean different things,” Haley said. “I can still bring the ball up, but usually against smaller guards, I’ll go over to the wing.”

No matter the rotation, Huggins will likely not have a lot of trust in any of his guards until they stop turning the ball over.

The combination of Bolden, Knapper, McCabe, Haley and Harler have 65 turnovers, making up roughly 44 percent of all of the Mountaineers’ turnovers this season.

“All of them, they have to stop turning it over,” Huggins said. “We turn it over at an alarming rate.”

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