Sagaba Konate

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate prepares to shoot a basket during a game against Pittsburgh during the 2019 season at the Coliseum. Konate was a key part of Huggins' 'Press Virginia' defense he now wants to bring back.

MORGANTOWN — You asked for it.

Now it looks like you are going to get it.

Press Virginia is coming back to West Virginia’s men’s basketball.

It will, at least, if Bob Huggins can find a way to put it together.

“We are really thinking hard about it,” Huggins said in a recent phone interview.

That didn’t come as any kind of surprise. Not playing defense at its highest level left Huggins feeling as though he’d had an arm or a leg amputated. Part of him was missing, for defense was what he has built 900 wins on and this past year’s team did not play defense.

So now he wants to go back to the way it was played when he had Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate and guys like Nate Adrian and John Flowers — 40 minutes of hell defense.

The problem with just coming out and saying it right now is he doesn’t know what his roster is going to look like. Does Miles McBride go in the NBA draft and give up his last three years of eligibility? Do Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil come back next year?

Huggins believes he’ll end up with McBride back, in no small part because his family wants him to finish his education, but there is talk he could end up a high second-round pick and we saw the other day with Ksyre Gondrezick on the women’s side how accurate predictions are, going from being labeled a third-round pick to the No. 4 player drafted.

Huggins also believes both Sherman and McNeil could wind up back in school for one more year, but until they say so he can’t build on that.

And finally, there is the big question: Does Derek Culver come back?

“I’m not sure Derek knows what he’s going to do,” Huggins said.

But make no doubt Huggins is trying to craft a roster that can play full court pressure all game.

His signing of Florida International transfer Dimon Carrigan, a 6-9 forward who can serve as the rim protector that Huggins lacked this year, kept him from going back to Press Virginia.

Carrigan finished second in Conference USA with 60 blocked shots, an average of 2.5 per game.

WVU is also said to be in the running for another shot blocker, one who is more similar to Konate, but again Huggins hasn’t gotten a commitment so it remains uncertain what his roster will look like in that area, too.

Right now, as he puts things together in his mind, Huggins is unsure if McBride, Culver, McNeil and Sherman will return while Jordan McCabe has transferred to UNLV and Emmitt Matthews Jr. remains in the transfer portal.

That’s 4,543 minutes out of a total of 5,875 minutes — 77.3 percent of all minutes played last year — that could be gone this year and it would change the entire dynamic of the team.

Of course, it could work the other way, too, and a great number of those minutes could return, giving WVU a highly experienced team with a pair of star players in McBride and Culver together for a third year and the ability to shoot from the outside, with the defense of Carrigan and Gabe Osabuohien, who has said he will return for his extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19.

That would allow Huggins to turn loose the dogs on defense.

Does he regret not having done that last season?

“No,” he said, “because we could make shots. We really could. Playing that way would have taken away from that. You don’t want to wear their legs down to where they are not making shots, leaving everything short because they just don’t have legs.”

This year, if he gets most of those players back, Huggins will have players who can make a press work and enough depth to rest his shooters. And he hopes to get the talented Isaiah Cottrell back after Achilles tendon surgery this year to join returning starter Jalen Bridges, both of them also able to be forces in a pressing defense.

In some ways it’s daunting to think what could be, yet it is fool’s gold to count on it at present.

It probably will be mid-summer before Huggins knows what he has on his roster, but make no doubt that he is spending some time looking at tape of the Press Virginia days and thinking how he can work it in with the various combinations he might have this year.

Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

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