Eilert certain WVU can be ‘dangerous team,’ but he’s got to build cohesiveness in a hurry

MORGANTOWN — If you throw in the fact that WVU forward Akok Akok is still working his way back to full form after missing seven games with a medical condition, Josh Eilert refers to the Mountaineers’ situation as “three and a half guys.”

That’s not the name for some new sitcom idea, but rather the influx of players that have suddenly been thrown into active duty on WVU’s roster.

Kerr Kriisa and Noah Farrakhan made their season debuts Saturday night, in the Mountaineers’ 87-79 loss against UMass in the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, mass.

Akok played 22 minutes, the most in the three games since his return.


Kriisa played 36 minutes and scored 20 points. Farrakhan played 18 minutes and added 15 more.

Battle, who Eilert said lost 13 pounds while falling ill with the flu, didn’t play, but is expected to make his debut on Wednesday, when WVU returns home to host Radford.

And while the new additions bring optimism, they also bring a sense of some sort of restart button on a season that is already 10 games old.

“Like I told all of our guys, it’s hard to transition one guy in after nine games, so it’s really hard to transition three and a half guys in,” Eilert said. “Everybody is going to have a new role on this team and they have to accept that role and excel in that role.”

At some point, the now expanded roster will have to learn to play together, too.

In the past weeks, as Battle’s eligibility fight was taken to a federal court and Kriisa’s NCAA suspension was coming to a close, Eilert said he continued to rotate those guys in practice with the other starters.

Practice reps and actually playing in a game together, though, is quite different.

“To have those guys and have some depth at the guard position was going to be critical,” Eilert said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to make sure our rotations are correct and everybody is playing their roles the correct way.”

WVU (4-6) can now play at a faster pace on offense, but the transition there is not easy since the bulk of the roster spent the first 45 days of the season playing slow to conserve energy.

With Kriisa now at point guard, his style of play is much different than what WVU experienced with Kobe Johnson at point.

“With Kerr, I don’t think everybody was ready for some of the passes that he makes,” Eilert said. “He’s going to put it on them and he’s a special point guard.”

Farrakhan made his impact by driving to the basket, also something different that players have to get used to.

Johnson spent the first nine games averaging 9.5 shots per game. He attempted only two against UMass and did not score for the first time this season.

Jesse Edwards had his worst game, and a wrist injury kept him out for most of the season half. The projected teamwork between him and Kriisa in pick-and-roll situations never developed.

“That wrist injury scares me,” Eilert said. “We’re praying that we can get him back healthy sooner than later.”

Once the proper adjustments are made, Eilert sees a team able to compete. His concern has to be in just how long that adjustment period takes.

Ranked No. 192 in the NCAA’s NET rankings on Sunday, WVU’s only chance to make a run at the NCAA tournament is to get a win in Cleveland against Ohio State on Dec. 30, and then put together a strong Big 12 season that begins in just 20 days.

“Now we’ve got the guys we want in there, and everybody can help us win,” Eilert said. “Once we get some of that chemistry rolling, I think we’re going to be a very dangerous team.”

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *