By Bill Nestor
If there is order in the court, then there can be some order found on the court. This past year has been an emotional roller coaster for West Virginia basketball players Rae Quan Battle and Noah Farrakhan.
Battle and Farrakhan have been dueling with the NCAA for the right to participate in games this season. The NCAA has denied both players the opportunity because they have played at previous schools and now it’s time for a break. Battle and Farrakhan did not want a time out, so they decided to take on the NCAA.
This isn’t what you would call a fair fight as the two hoopsters enlisted the aid of others in hopes of overturning the giant. West Virginia Attorney General, Patrick Morrissey, Ohio Attorney General David Yost, and six other surrounding states’ attorneys general banded together to join the cause.
Last Wednesday in Wheeling, good news came down from Judge John Bailey. Bailey issued a 14 day temporary restraining order which was then converted to a preliminary injunction which was scheduled to last until the end of spring sports. This opened the door for the pair of players to make their Mountaineers debut. However, there was still concern that if they suited up this season, and if there was an about face in the courtroom, would they be eligible to lose eligibility?
It looks like that is just a chance they are willing to take. Farrakhan played just three days later against Massachusetts in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. Battle did not play because of flu-like symptoms, but is ready to go as soon as his health improves.
Another WVU player that saw his first action of the year in the Hall of Fame Classic was Kerr Kriisa. Kriisa was doing his time for an NCAA violation of rules that kept him out of the first nine games of the year. Mountaineer head coach Josh Eilert decided to throw caution to the wind with his point guard as Kriisa played a team-high 36 minutes. Kriisa responded with 20 points and a game high seven assists. Farrakhan was impressive in the affair as well. The senior scored 15 points in 18 minutes on seven of 11 shooting from the field.
West Virginia scored a season high 79 points in the loss to UMass. That is the biggest positive to take away from the setback. Now that the roster has been filled with talent, Eilert and his staff can now address some of the concerns. The top priority is to tighten up the defense, which gave up a season high 87 to UMass.
He has two more non-conference tilts left to do some tweaking before conference play begins on Jan 6.
This Saturday, Toledo comes to town (just two days before Santa) and it’s Ugly Holiday Sweater Day. Eilert should be able to play any combination of players and implement any new wrinkles and still get a win.
The last game of the year will provide a tougher test and a measuring stick lock-up for his team. They travel to Columbus, Ohio to play the Buckeyes. Ohio State has lost just one non-conference game and are six and one at home, currently. A win over the Bucs would be a great way to ring in the New year and would set the record at six and six.
Practice makes perfect and the Mountaineers will have nearly a full week to prep for the road trip to Houston to start Big 12 play. On Jan 9, Kansas State comes to Morgantown, followed by Texas on Jan 13. Action picks up from there as the time right now is crucial for Eilert to build team chemistry and cohesiveness. The next few weeks will define the entire season. Since the roster is at full strength for the first time all year, the final verdict could be in Eilert’s favor.