Three days after landing one power forward in Sagaba Konate, West Virginia received a verbal commitment from another big man Sunday evening.
6-foot-11 Mountain Mission School (Grundy, Virginia) power forward Maciej Bender became the Mountaineers’ fourth commitment in the Class of 2016 on Sunday, with the Mountain Mission program announcing the news via Twitter. Bender is a native of Poland, and in addition to Konate he joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class.
West Virginia will lose two forwards in TyQuane Goard and Jonathan Holton at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the additions of Konate and Bender will help the Mountaineers account for those departures from a depth standpoint. Bender can score around the basket, but he’s also capable of facing up and scoring in pick-and-pop situations out beyond the three-point line.
Bender officially visited West Virginia last weekend, and he was a player the WVU coaching staff wanted to get in the fold. Other programs to offer Bender included Arizona State (teammate Jethro Tshisumpa is an ASU commit), Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Providence. Bender played his grassroots basketball for the West Virginia Wildcats program this summer.
Thursday evening West Virginia landed its third commitment in the Class of 2016, as three-star power forward Sagaba Konate made his pledge to join Bob Huggins’ program next year. Konate, who attends Kennedy Catholic HS in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, also held offers from programs such as Pittsburgh, Purdue, Dayton and George Mason.
The 6-foot-8 Konate comes from a family that has produced multiple college basketball players, with older brother Bakary playing at Minnesota and three others having completed their respective college playing careers.
Konate joins guards Brandon Knapper and Chase Harler in West Virginia’s 2016 recruiting class to date, and in regards to strength and athleticism he should fit in well with the big men the Mountaineers utilize. Jonathan Holton and Marshall transfer TyQuane Goard are the lone seniors in the WVU front court this season, with Holton being a critical factor in the team’s full-court pressure defense.
Among the front court players with eligibility remaining beyond the upcoming season are juniors Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian and Brandon Watkins, redshirt sophomore Elijah Macon and freshmen Esa Ahmad and Lamont West. Watkins, who has struggled with health issues throughout his sophomore season, underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in late May and is likely to sit out this season as a medical redshirt.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins has added another player to his roster for the 2015-15 season, with it being announced by the program that former Marshall forward TyQuane Goard has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Goard averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a junior at Marshall in 2013-14 before being dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules.
Goard finished up his coursework at Marshall, which opened the door for him to be granted a graduate waiver that would make him eligible to compete for West Virginia this season. According to the West Virginia Metro News, Marshall attempted to block Goard’s move to WVU in June.
This is an important addition for the Mountaineers, who may not have Brandon Watkins for the upcoming season after he underwent knee surgery in mid-May. And the 6-foot-7 Goard will have ample opportunities to help out West Virginia in the front court as a result of that injury.
“With the injury to Brandon Watkins, TyQuane adds much-needed depth and athleticism to the front line,” Huggins said in the release. “His athleticism and skill set are well suited to our style of play.”
Goard joins Jonathan Holton (senior), Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian (juniors) as upperclassmen in West Virginia’s projected front court (Watkins would be a junior if he’s able to play, but could take a medical redshirt), with sophomore Elijah Macon and freshmen Esa Ahmad and Lamont West also factoring into the rotation.