MORGANTOWN — It’s now time to see if “The Magician” has any methods left up his sleeve.
That’s the nickname WVU teammates have given level guard Kerr Kriisa after seeing the best way the purpose guard can frequently play and move his approach out of seemingly no-win conditions in apply.
“We’re bringing within the No. 1 level guard within the nation,” WVU ahead Quinn Slazinski mentioned a few week in the past. “Clearly, everybody’s heads are on fireplace proper now due to all of the issues which are occurring, however 100% we might be including the No. 1 level guard within the nation.”
The Magician has been a disappearing act by way of WVU’s first 9 video games, the results of a NCAA suspension after it was found Kriisa acquired improper advantages whereas nonetheless enrolled at Arizona, the place he performed three seasons, earlier than transferring to WVU.
Throughout that point, WVU (4-5) has had extra downs than ups, and finds itself ranked No. 195 within the NCAA’s NET rankings, because it heads into Saturday’s Corridor of Fame Traditional match-up towards UMass (5-2) in Springfield, Mass.
The daybreak of Large 12 play is simply three weeks away, which means time is brief for WVU head coach Josh Eilert and the Mountaineers to orchestrate some kind of turnaround.
How a lot assist can Kriisa, who led the Pac-12 in assists the final two seasons, carry to the group?
“Having Kerr on the market might be a game-changer by way of our offense and offensive manufacturing,” Eilert mentioned. “Not solely is he masterful at timing passes, however he additionally places it proper within the pocket of the place it must be. Our field-goal proportion will go up simply because we now have some extent guard like that on the ground.”
Apart from the actual fact Kriisa provides Eilert one other physique to work with to chop down on the heavy minutes performed by everybody else, his play-making means must be a serious plus.
WVU is taking pictures 39.8% as a group, which is final within the Large 12. Kriisa’s model of play, Eilert hopes, will create some totally different appears to be like inside the offense to the place WVU shooters are getting higher appears to be like on the rim.
“Kerr is a magician in so many alternative methods by way of studying defenses,” Eilert mentioned. “He’s obtained pretty much as good of imaginative and prescient as I’ve ever seen within the faculty sport.”
Having Kriisa at level guard additionally permits Eilert to maneuver Kobe Johnson off the ball. Johnson (10.3 factors per sport) has been the place to begin guard throughout Kriisa’s absence.
Now, Johnson and Seth Wilson can rotate and never have to fret about operating the present and dealing with the ball as a lot.
“It’s large,” Wilson mentioned. “Apart from the plain factor of saving legs, I do know you guys have heard it earlier than, however he’s a magician. Having that presence on the ground for us goes to be large.”
After which there’s the two-man sport between Kriisa and heart Jesse Edwards.
That was a focus heading into the season for Eilert, picturing these two in pick-and-roll conditions.
Whereas Edwards has lived as much as the billing — he’s averaging 16.2 factors, whereas taking pictures 59% from the ground — it’s nonetheless onerous to have a two-man present with only one man.
“It provides us some momentum,” Edwards mentioned. ”Usually, when guys are out and are available again they convey an additional increase.”
WVU has performed the final two video games with the return of ahead Akok Akok, who continues to be working his approach again into form after lacking the primary seven video games with a medical situation.
With Kriisa’s return, it could appear WVU’s items are largely in place, on the very least the Mountaineers are in a greater place than they began.
All that’s left is the magic trick of getting WVU again into rivalry.
“To not discuss him up an excessive amount of, as a result of he all the time laughs at me once I do this, however he’s a program-changing participant,” Slazinski mentioned of Kriisa.