WVU Basketball is ranked 3rd in the Big 12 and 7th nationally, with wins over both No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. Expecting a deep run in March, senior forward Nathan Adrian is more than just along for the ride – he’s sitting shotgun.
When you hear people talk about college basketball’s Player of The Year award, many names come to mind – Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine (averaged 19 pts, 7 rebs, 7 ast); Frank Kaminsky (18 pts, 8 rebs) and Doug McDermott (26 pts, 7 rebs); even Anthony Davis (14 pts, 10 rebs) and Kevin Durant (25 pts, 11 rebs) won the award. All five put up great numbers during their respective seasons, but they also helped their teams win.
Morgantown’s own Nathan Adrian has that same goal in mind for the 18-4 Mountaineers. He’s averaging 11 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field. His 74 percent clip from the free throw line is good for third on the team, and he makes 31 percent of his threes. These aren’t eye-popping numbers by any stretch, but they do tell a story that’s deeper than the box score.
Adrian does a lot of coaching-up his teammates while on the floor. Not in a you’re-no-good, I’m-smarter-than-you fashion, but constructively, in a positive manner. It’s amazing when you see it unfold on the court. He’ll catch a pass at the top of the key and just hang out – or that’s what it looks like. “Move the ball! Dribble! Do something!” you hear people say. As the cutter Adrian’s waiting for flashes wide-open, he delivers a strike and it’s two points for the good guys. Adrian records the assist, but doesn’t get much credit for letting the play develop. Most big men in that situation don’t have the patience to let their teammates get open; it’s no accident he’s second on the team in assists. Not only is Adrian patient with the ball, he’s got the skills to deliver an accurate, on-time pass. And when big men can draw opposing big’s away from the hoop, the offensive glass opens up for everybody.
The senior logs around 28 minutes per game for coach Bob Huggins and is a threat the entire time he’s on the court. He’s recorded 71 offensive rebounds on the season as of Jan. 31, a number that averages to about 3.23 per game. These extra possessions for WVU are detrimental to opposing teams, especially when the ‘Eers start imposing their will on defense.
Adrian is the head of that beast, better known as Press Virginia. Many wondered who would fill the vacancy left after Jonathan Holton’s graduation, but Adrian seamlessly filled the void. You know what it is by now; Adrian annoys the in-bounder while the guards deny the pass. Once the ball is in, teams are awaiting the trap. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t, which is the beauty of it all. This unknown causes fits for opponents. Players wondering, “Is he going to trap? No he backed up, I can relax.” Then bam! Adrian swarms the dribbler and gets a deflection. He’s just as productive in the half-court, often calling out screens and communicating from the back end.
The high basketball-IQ coupled with his play-making ability combine to make one of the most dynamic players in college basketball. There have been some over the years, but not all figured out how to put it all together and win. Adrian’s had his fair share of victories, never losing to Kansas in Morgantown, but he’ll be judged by the last leg of his race – the NCAA tournament. Here’s to hoping we don’t run into any Lumberjacks!