MORGANTOWN — Having patience is not normally considered one of the attributes of today’s youth.
For the most part, they want it all and they want it now, but Jalen Bridges, West Virginia basketball’s key recruit out of Fairmont Senior is different.
While most top-line players come to college thinking “one-and-done”, Bridges has come to WVU thinking “one-and-then-I’ll-start-playing.”
Rather than hastily throw himself into the rigors of college basketball and the challenges of adjusting to college life, Bridges made a studied and mature decision to come and redshirt his first year even though he was talented enough to play and contribute.
He left no doubt about the talent aspect of his game on Friday night an exhibition game against Duquesne as he came off the bench in the first half and in five minutes hit two of four shots for four points.
But neither playing nor scoring got to him as strongly as did just being a part of it all.
“Seeing this name across my chest meant the world to me,” Bridges said, running his hand across the “West Virginia” emblazed on his uniform front.
His decision to redshirt came after spending family time and discussing matters with his father, Corey, who was part of a state championship team at Fairmont Senior in 1996 and got to watch his son, then a freshman, win the first state championship since then.
He had thought he had everything planned out, ready to begin classes at Scotland Campus in Chambersburg, Pa., But that very week, Ethan Richardson, a junior college big man who had committed to WVU decided not to enroll.
At that point, Bob Huggins turned to Bridges.
“They switched their whole [recruiting] approach. Usually, everything was about basketball but they started emphasizing academics and campus life,” Bridges said.
When they agreed that he could redshirt to give himself time to build his upper body and learn about life on campus he was sold.
He not only committed but decided to enroll immediately, even though classes had already begun.
The change was so sudden that he had to unpack his bags that had been packed for prep school and he started classes — and workouts — the next day.
“You know, he and his father Corey, they didn’t do things just at a whim. They really did study things,” Huggins said. “I think it was a great move on their part to bring him here as a freshman rather than to go to prep school.
“Playing against who he is going to be playing against here is going to be much more valuable plus he is going to learn what we do and how we do it,” Huggins continued. “He will be so much more ready to play as a redshirt freshman than had he gone to a prep school and then came in.”
So what does Bridges bring when he does begin playing?
“Size at a wing position and he shoots it really well,” Huggins said. “He’s got a good basketball intellect.”
If Huggins can keep together what he has this year — the only seniors on his team being Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler and Logan Routt — the team Bridges joins next year would be power-packed.