By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It may be Oklahoma Saturday, but before the Sooners and West Virginia University Mountaineers square off on the football field this evening, there’s some basketball to be attended to.
West Virginia men’s coach Bob Huggins has welcomed two new recruits with ties to WVU and Morgantown who signed national letters of intent on Friday, while coach Mike Carey’s No. 14/17-ranked women’s team was preparing to face the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans.
That game begins at 1 p.m. at the Coliseum, allowing fans to also attend the 7 p.m. football game.
Huggins’ two signees are the almost 6-10, 205-pound Nathan Adrian from Morgantown High and the 6-9, 225-pound Brandon Watkins from Decatur, Ga.’s, Grady High.
Adrian is the first player from Morgantown High to sign with the hometown school since back in the Jerry West era. He is currently preparing for his senior season for coach Tom Yester.
As a junior, he helped his team to an 18-7 record. Adrian averaged 19.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, earning Class AAA first-team all-state honors. He made 32 3-point field goals, blocked 32 shots and shot 51 percent from the field, while posting 20 double-doubles.
Adrian was also named to the Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) Player of the Year and captain of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) Class 5A first team.
As a sophomore, Adrian averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, earning North Central Athletic Conference first-team honors. He is a Scout and Rivals 3 star. Adrian played AAU basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats.
“We obviously need more perimeter shooting,” Huggins said in a release. “Nate not only brings the ability to make perimeter shots but will add much-needed size to our perimeter. It’s great to be able to sign quality players from our state.”
As a junior, Watkins helped his team to a 15-5 overall record, averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds per game, earning All-Metro Atlanta second-team honors and Georgia Class AAA All-State second-team honors.
During his sophomore season, he averaged 20.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game. Watkins is a Scout, Rivals and ESPN three-star and is ranked a Top 125 player in the senior class by Rivals. ESPN ranks him as the 12th-best center in this year’s senior class. Watkins played AAU basketball for the Georgia Stars. Watkins is the nephew of Mountaineer Hall of Famer Warren Baker.
“Brandon gives us much-needed size to our front court and gives us a shot blocker who has the ability to run the floor and enhance our transition game,” Huggins said. “Brandon also grew up a Mountaineer fan and is uncle, Warren Baker, is one of the greatest Mountaineers of all-time.”
Huggins is expecting signed letters of intent from Elijah Macon and Devin Williams before the November signing period ends on Wednesday.
Macon is familiar, a recruit who failed to qualify to enter school this year after playing at Huntington Prep last year. He, instead, went to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. At 6-foot-8, 245-pounds, he is the kind of player Huggins loves to have in his front court — big, strong and athletic.
Williams is 6-8 and 220 and a product of Cincinnati, but he’s currently attending Monteverde (Fla.) Academy, where he is ranked No. 84 on ESPN’s Top 100 list. Williams is listed as the top power forward in Ohio and chose WVU over Ohio State and Memphis.
The women go into their game off a second straight victory, escaping a tight come-from-behind battle at Boston University, 60-57, on Monday. USC Upstate is 1-2 and comes to Morgantown off a 71-64 overtime win on Thursday night at Norfolk State. Saturday’s game is the fourth consecutive road game in one week for USC Upstate.
Senior center Ayana Dunning has picked up some the slack created when Asya Bussie, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, was lost for the season with a knee injury by recording double-doubles in each of the first two games.
In Monday’s outing, WVU had three players record numbers in double figures, led by Dunning, who had her second-consecutive double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Like USC Upstate’s win on Thursday, the Mountaineers trailed into halftime and came out to take the lead and win the game. Crystal Leary, who rattled off seven straight points to help regain the lead, and Averee Fields each contributed 11 points, marking the first time each has recorded double-digit scoring numbers and career highs.
Dunning leads the Mountaineers in scoring and rebounding with 13.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. Junior Christal Caldwell is the second-leading scorer with 11.5 points per game, while Leary is the second-leading rebounder with 6.0 boards per game.
Freshman Brittany Starling is USC Upstate’s leading scorer with 11.3 points per game, while senior guard Tee’Ara Copney holds a 10.7-points-per-game scoring average.
Parking for the women’s basketball game is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis in all lots except the football RV lot. Fans are also encouraged to use the Coliseum band lot and the additional parking located next to the WVU tennis courts.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter@bhertzel.