Gabe Osabuohien understands his role on the West Virginia basketball team.
For some that could be a difficult realization, but he knows that in order to have success as a team everybody has to do their part. And playing each individual part is critical to the production as a whole.
It’s a lesson he learned as a freshman at Arkansas when they were six seniors on the roster. In order to get on the court, he had to do the little things and specialize in areas that others weren’t willing to do.
The Razorbacks transfer played in 28 games last year after being declared immediately eligible and while he didn’t necessarily fill the stat sheet his impact was certainly felt. Osabuohien was the best passing big man on the roster and averaged 3.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
He also was a valuable weapon on the defensive end, leading the team with 148 deflections and 23 charges taken. His flexibility allowed head coach Bob Huggins to use him in a variety of ways when he was on the floor but Osabuohien understands there’s still more potential there.
“I have more knowledge of what my teammates are capable of and their tendencies. Just a better understanding of the players that I’m playing with,” he said.
This season, Osabuohien has continued to fill his role averaging 1.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.3 assists per game. He also has continued to be a valuable asset getting his hand on the basketball and understanding the correct positioning to draw charges. On the year, he has drawn 15 charges while recording 115 deflections.
“He does a great job of positioning; he does a great job with getting his feet down. The biggest thing is get your feet down and get established,” Huggins said. “He has a really good understanding of people driving the ball and how quick they close on him.”
Osabuohien displayed the ability to put the ball on the floor at times and get to the basket, but the coaches want to see him become a more consistent offensive threat. Still, even with his limitations at that end of the floor he has proven to be an asset to what the Mountaineers do.
Huggins compares his impact without putting the ball in the basket favorably to a former West Virginia player in Cam Thoroughman.
“I think he’s along those lines of what Cam gave us. Cam gave us a 6-foot-6 center that guarded everybody. A lot of times I’ve had guys like that and the great thing is they’re unselfish,” he said. “You’re not worried about somebody jacking up eight shots when those shots should be going to the other guys.”
He is admittedly more comfortable than he was a season ago on the offensive end but is still sorting things out on that front. But Osabuohien continues to make plays in the game that are noticeable and largely created by his hustle and effort on the defensive end.
During quarantine, Osabuohien did not return to his native Canada, instead focusing on his craft in Morgantown. That meant a lot of time in the gym working on improving those weak link in his game and it’s an area that he continues to emphasize.
Osabuohien is one of a few big men left standing on the West Virginia roster and understands that the play of that spot is critical. That was on display when he took a charge that wasn’t called against Iowa State. The ball would kick out to Taz Sherman and he would ice the game from the line.
The same can be said against Kansas when he took a charge in the second half in the Mountaineers win that was the catalyst to a run that helped put the Jayhawks away. He also had become a critical piece down the stretch run of games due to his versatility and effectiveness on the defensive end of the floor.
Osabuohien understands his role well and exactly what he needs to do to contribute.