MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Isaiah Cottrell came to West Virginia as a highly touted high school prospect. He was an ESPN 100 player coming out of Huntington Prep, and a four-star rated player by all major recruiting sites.
His true freshman season came to an early end, when, just ten games into the season, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon against Northeastern.
Cottrell came back ready to go for his redshirt freshman season having put on five pounds of muscle.
Cottrell and West Virginia (13-3, 2-2) have reached the midway point in their season, and the forward is still looking to find his rhythm on offense.
“We’re going to have to probably run some offense for him to get some shots on the perimeter,” Bob Huggins said after Saturday’s loss to Kansas. “At the same time we still need him to play against size when he’s the best size that we have.”
Through 16 games this season, Cottrell is averaging just 4.4 points per game. His 35.4 shooting percentage ranks at the bottom of the WVU roster, among players who have played in at least 10 games. He’s also struggled to find his shooting touch from three-point land.
“Isaiah has pretty much been a perimeter guy,” said Huggins. “I wanted to get him out on the perimeter. He made one.”
On a team that has struggled to rebound at times this year, Cottrell is averaging just 2.6 rebounds per game. That’s fewer boards collected than guards Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil.
Rebounding was “the biggest thing” that Cottrell said he was working on when he met with the media last month. He added that rebounding was also one of the areas that was most impacted by his Achilles injury.
“It was something I couldn’t work on the whole time I was hurt,” said Cottrell. “It’s something that I’m improving with, and I’m learning how to do it again, and get in [the] right position, and things like that.”
The Las Vegas native did put forth the best performance of his still-young collegiate career earlier this season.
He scored a career-best nine points in the third game of the season against Elon. Cottrell made three of the four shots he attempted, including a 3-pointer. He also grabbed five rebounds, blocked three shots and collected a steal on defense.
Huggins has been looking for more assertiveness out of the 6 foot, 10 inch forward this season.
“Isaiah, he’s not physical enough yet,” he said in December.
That’s not without a lack of trying, however.
“He’s not as physical as you need to be at this level yet,” Huggins said. “He will be. I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that he will be. And he wants to be.”
Through 26 career games played, Cottrell is averaging 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. He’s been a 35 percent shooter, overall, but is just 4-of-25 from beyond the arc.
Cottrell admitted earlier this season that there are areas of his game that he needs to improve on.
And without a full season’s worth of college basketball under his belt, there’s still time for him make those improvements while playing in the top league in college basketball.