Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

Miles McBridge still maturing as a player, anxious to get started at West Virginia

CINCINNATI — Walk into the gymnasium at Archbishop Moeller High School and you instantly notice is a photo from the Crusaders’ 2018 state championship game. Miles McBride was in action during that championship weekend in Columbus, though for most of his junior season leading up to it, he had been bystander.

A serious foot injury suffered midway through the 2017 football season sidelined McBride for the first 28 games of his basketball season. The guard’s debut finally came in the state semifinals, and one day later, McBride led his Crusaders to the Division 1 title by scoring 14 points in a 83-65 win over Solon.

“I was definitely rusty but it just felt good to be out there again after sitting and watching the guys play. Once you are out there everything goes away and you are focused,” McBride said.

“Amazing feeling. You dream about it as a kid — winning the state title — and it came true. I am proud of it.”

A two-sport standout, McBride garnered plenty of attention for his football achievements, throwing 17 touchdowns in five games during his junior year. But when his football season ended in injury, McBride eventually decided to make basketball his sole focus.

“It was a really tough decision. I had been playing football longer than I had been playing basketball. It is a sport I love, but I really just felt that was the best decision to get back after it in basketball,” Miles said.

“That was tough because I am not a big fan of football,” said Miles’ father Walt McBride. “He had the luxury of being good at both. I know he loved it. I never said he can’t do it, or to stop playing your senior year or anything like that. Had he not gotten injured last year I am sure he would have played this year as well.”

Trust from Huggins
After being head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats for 16 years, Bob Huggins still has deep roots in the Queen City. Like many schools, WVU expressed interest in making a scholarship offer to McBride. Unlike many schools, that offer stood despite Miles’ injury.

“There were a lot of schools that were on the verge of offering,” said veteran Moeller coach Carl Kremer. “This wasn’t a small injury. A Lisfranc injury can be career enders for some people. Huggs invites him down and offers him while he is hurt. That’s kind of who he is. If he believes, he believes. Miles said, ‘he made this offer to me when I was injured, this is where I want to be.’ ”

“Really it was just the trust that Coach Huggins put in me,” Miles said. “I was hurt last year when he offered me and I really thought it was great of him to offer me being hurt and not really playing in my junior year. I felt loyalty out of that.”

While programs such as Ohio State, Xavier, Purdue were taking a wait-and-see approach, West Virginia didn’t hesitate.

“A lot of schools wanted to see what happens in the summer,” Walt said. “My wife and Miles went down on an official visit. (Huggins) knows talent and his staff knows talent.

For him to offer when other guys are saying to wait to the summer means a lot. That means he is really interested and he really likes you. I said, there is no waiting. This guy believes in you. He has watched you and that’s loyalty. That’s what Huggs is all about.”

Walt McBride should know. Their relationship rewinds to 1986, when Huggins was a coach in the mid-major Ohio Valley Conference, three years before he earned the Cincinnati job. Back then, McBride was playing with the Youngstown Pride in the WBL alongside current WVU women’s assistant Lester Rowe. He was living in Akron and would practice at Akron University, where he saw the way Huggins demanded the most from players.

“He reminds me of my college coach, Bob Stack from Xavier. They are tough on you. They love you. They love you afterwards,” Walt said.

Maturing at Moeller
McBride showed promise at an early age. Archbishop Moeller is one of Ohio’s premier programs and underclassmen rarely make their way onto the varsity roster. McBride proved to be an exception.

“We have had great success here and I have never really played a freshman on varsity,” Kremer said. “I moved Miles up pretty early in the season — he played 15 games of varsity. That’s really the first freshman I have done that with.

“Part of it what his ability but the biggest part of it was his maturity. I knew that he could handle it emotionally and I knew he would know how to mix in with the older guys, know his role and know how it works in the system like ours where people wait their turn. He gets what was going on. He is not a real loud leader. He is not the rah-rah guy. Through his actions and through his conversations he leads our team. Everyone in the school respects him as a person.”

Walt saw Miles develop early, when he would play against older brother Trey, who’s now a junior at Northwood University.

“He just picked up a lot of things quickly,” Walt said. “He adapts to situations. You could throw him out there when he was a freshman, you can throw him out there with older guys, and he would adapt to it. It is really nice watching him play and I really haven’t had to say anything as a parent. Some parents scream things at a kid and it confuses the kid but it is nice to have that luxury where you don’t have to say much, you can talk to him afterwards.”

McBride has played both guard positions at Moeller and is prepared to do the same at the next level. He feels most natural at point guard.

“I really watch Damien Lillard. He’s a guard that has a lot of control over the ball, but has real good players around him and can take over a game or facilitate if he needs to.”

Moeller is unbeaten this season with McBride running the offense.

“His sophomore year, we had a couple of other guys that could handle it. This year he is our primary ballhandler. I am really not comfortable with anybody else doing it much,” Kremer said.

“I think what I love about Miles — I have had two guys in my career who could dominate a game and not score. They could maybe have eight, 10, 12 points and yet they could dominate a game in every phase. That’s what Miles does. He is just a complete basketball player who senses what his team needs and gives it to them.”

McBride plays a crucial role defensively, taking opposing point guards out of rhythm. “I have never seen a kid have the ability to time up steals,” Kremer said. “He can lock a guy up. I think he is one of the best defenders I have seen in my career.”

Prepping for West Virginia
At West Virginia, McBride joins a recruiting class with five-star McDonald’s All-American Oscar Tshiebwe — the program’s highest-rated signee since recruiting services began doling out rankings. Undeterred by being the overlooked recruit, McBride hopes he and Tshiebwe can help forge a Mountaineers turnaround next season.

“Oscar grabs every board. He is dunking everything,” Miles said. “I know he is going to bring energy and that is what we need.”

McBride expects to lead Moeller on another deep postseason run. He averaged 14.5 points per game and shot 53 percent as the Crusaders completed an undefeated regular season with a 21-0 record.

After the state playoffs conclude next month, McBride’s focus will turn to elevating his game for college.

“Everybody talks about those summer workouts their first year in college,” Miles said. “I want to put myself to the test and hopefully I can come in in shape and ready to go.”

McBride’s father is anxious to see the transition.

“He has to become more vocal,” Walt said. “For him to have success at the next level he is going to have to show that he can be a leader.

“He definitely needs to get stronger. He has to widen his shoulders and work on his body because in the Big 12, that’s a man’s league.”