Chip Shots – More player movement

More player movement

by Jim Buzzerd

West Virginia University basketball head coach Bob Huggins continues to mine the transfer portal with success. Already this offseason, West Virginia’s men’s basketball team took a big step forward solidifying its backcourt with the addition of point guard Kerr Kriisa and frontcourt by adding Jesse Edwards. The Mountaineers’ latest grab from the NCAA Transfer Portal is a wing capable of scoring in a variety of ways. RaeQuan Battle, a 6-foot-5 guard who starred last season at Montana State, offered his commitment Wednesday to West Virginia, where he will use his final season of eligibility.

Battle was receiving interest from many schools including UCLA, Arizona, Kansas, St. Johns, Texas, Oklahoma, and others. Battle was the leading scorer at 17.7 points on a Bobcats’ team that won 25 games and the Big Sky Championship to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A native of Tulalip, Washington, Battle scored in double figures in 31 of 35 games, including 19 straight to end MSU’s season, which finished with an opening-round NCAA loss to Kansas State — a game Battle scored 27 points in.

Huggins may not be finished yet. West Virginia has contacted RJ Sunahara who played last season at NOVA Southeastern in Davie, Florida near Ft. Lauderdale. The 6-8 Sunahara is the Division II player of the year after leading his team to the Division II National Championship beating West Liberty in the championship game.

Last season Sunahara averaged 26.7 points per game. He made 60% of his two point shots and 40% from beyond the arc. I watched three of his post season games and should have no problem transitioning to Big 12 play if he decides on WVU. Other schools that have reached out include Notre Dame, Georgia, Loyola Chicago and VCU, but the Mountaineers are in the mix. Sunahara’s dad, Reed Sunahara, is WVU’s volleyball coach, so there’s that.

I may have neglected to mention that WVU center Jimmy Bell spent time working out with the football team during spring drills in what head coach Neal Brown referred to as a “trial run.” It’s not clear how much Bell progressed on the gridiron, but he’s known to have good feet and 6-10, 285 can’t be taught so there’s a chance football could work out for him. Whatever Bell decides to pursue, it won’t be at West Virginia.

On Friday, Bell entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, where he will seek a new school. It remains to be seen whether Bell will pursue basketball or football at his new destination, though he has far more experience on the hardwood of late.

One other portal transfer of note is last season’s leading rusher, Tony Mathis, is in the portal. Over 10 appearances in 2022, Mathis led the Mountaineers with 562 rushing yards and 135 attempts. He scored five touchdowns and surpassed 100 yards in victories over Towson and Baylor, the latter of which Mathis rushed for a career-high 163 yards and two scores on 23 carries to earn Big 12 Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week.

The running back position is deep with quality and Mathis was almost certainly going to see fewer carries next season. This transfer seems to make sense for both sides.