MORGANTOWN – When West Virginia opens its 2019-20 Gold-Blue Debut at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Coliseum, all eyes will be trained on the high profile, 5-star recruit Oscar Tschiebwe but they may be looking in the wrong place.
That is not to take anything away from just the second McDonald’s All-American to come to WVU without having to buy a ticket, for one look at him and he is a man among boys.
But he is going to go through a learning period and this is a team that has had tremendous turnover from last year’s upside down season, which may just make the veteran swing man Chase Harler a valuable piece of the puzzle.
No, he won’t lead the team in scoring, won’t lead in assists, won’t lead in rebounds, but he has a specific role to play.
“I’m kind of a traffic control guy on the floor,” said Harler, the senior out of Wheeling Central. “I understand what Hugs wants out of certain plays. I think he has enough trust in me to put me in positions to make a certain pass or set up screens or make the shot.
“My job is to get everyone where they need to be. I’m trying to be more of playmaker and hit open shots.”
It’s sort of like the air traffic controllers at the big time airports, keeping planes on their right flight patterns, making sure they aren’t too close to one another and that know exactly what it is they need to do to get airborne or to land.
“It’s a big role,” Harler said. “A lot of guys can do a lot of things but if we’re all running into each other it is not going to work as smoothly. Like I said, I understand what we’re looking for and try to get people into positions that will benefit our team.”
It’s been quite a learning process over four years for Harler.
Even though he averaged 24.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists his senior year in high school, a three-time first team all-state selection and the USA Today All-USA West Virginia Player of the Year, its a long way from Class A basketball to the Coliseum.
There were trying times early on.
“Early on, I didn’t understand why Huggs was getting on me and I took it a little personal,” he said. “As I matured, I came to understand and our relationship got better on and off the floor.”
And now having Harler is like having a coach on the floor, knowing what Huggins wants and trying to make it happen.
One of the things that has to happen is for him to improve his shooting, for WVU has some hot hands that can play that position, especially junior college transfer Taz Sherman.
“[Sherman] was on a roll yesterday,” Huggins said. “He hit three or four straight transition jumpers.”
And another shooter, Sean McNeil, can move into that spot.
“He misses one and you look at him like ‘What happened?’,” Huggins said.
Harler, who averaged only 5.4 points a game while playing in 36 games and starting 17 last season, knows he has to shoot better than that.
“Taz can do things Chase can’t do but Chase knows what to do. When we’ve been good, we’ve had people on the floor who knew what they were doing,” Huggins said.
“I put a lot of time in on shooting in the off-season,” Harler said. “I feel like in a way I have more confidence in myself because it is my last year. I feel I’m playing a little more freely.
“The Spain trip was good for me. Hopefully that will carry over to the states.”
The Gold-Blue debut will offer an indication.
Admission to the game is free with the gates opening at 6 p.m.
In addition to the game, there will be an introduction to the players and staff, comments from Huggins, and an autograph session with the players on the Coliseum floor after the game.
Parking at the Coliseum lots is free.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel