Just four days after the Razorback basketball program announced that Gabe Osabuohien had been dismissed, the 6’8″ small forward has found a new home.
Osabuohien today Tweeted he will play for Bob Huggins at West Virginia. Huggins, the Mountaineers head coach, unleashes the most stylistically similar program to the “40 Minutes of Hell”-based defensive scheme that defined Arkansas under Mike Anderson from 2011 until this sprig.
The timing of the move isn’t as sudden as it seems.
Osabuohien, who was dismissed for an undisclosed reason, has known for weeks that he was potentially on the outs. Beat reporter Kevin McPherson said that on August 6th he was told that Osabuohien had been presented with a letter that stated he’d been placed on indefinite suspension. At that time, it wasn’t known if the program would keep him or not.
Osabuhoien played two seasons at Arkansas, averaging 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 points on only 34% shooting. He never came close to the reaching the potential he envisioned for himself in high school, when he said the players he most tried to emulate were Julius Randle and Jabari Parker (see the 2:00 and 4:40 mark below).
On Twitter, he fancies himself as a guard, but he was used as an inside player at Arkansas. He simply doesn’t yet have the offensive skill and court awareness to play on the perimeter.
Osabuohien, however, did many things which didn’t show up in the box score. He was a good defender for the Razorbacks, active, alert and quick, and a great charge taker.
Here are four of his top plays during his sophomore season in 2018-19:
- Steal and 2/3 court drive for dunk vs. Auburn (at :27)
- Drive, spin and bank against Texas A&M (:43)
- Drive, reverse spin and bank vs Ole Miss (1:00
- Steal and 2/3 court drive for layup vs. Texas A&M (:07)
Playing for Bob Huggins
Outside of following Mike Anderson to St. John’s, Osabuohien could not have chosen a more familiar system. Huggins, who coached against Mike Anderson (then at Missouri) as Kansas State’s coach in 2006-07, has firsthand experience against both Anderson’s system and that of his predecessor Nolan Richardson’s (Huggins’ Cincinnati teams played against Nolan’s Razorbacks).
After returning his home state of West Virginia in 2007, Huggins did not originally deploy the hellacious, defensive style that has become known as “Press Virginia.” He simply didn’t have the right athletes in the first few years, though he did lead WVU to a 31-win season in 2009-10.
“I was with him at Cincinnati in the 90s when we did press quite a bit, more three-quarter court, a lot of 2-1-2 pressure rather than the full-court that we’re doing now,” Huggins assistant Larry Harrison told NBC Sports. “Since we’ve been at West Virginia we’ve been trying to get back to that point, we just didn’t feel like we had the personnel to do that.”
In the last few years, though, Bob Huggins has gotten the personnel he needs. And the rangy Osabuohien fits the profile to a tee. Huggins likely first became familiar with Osabuohien on the AAU circuit and/or when Osabuohien played a season of high school ball in Virginia before transferring to Little Rock’s Southwest Christian Academy.
At West Virginia, it appears Osabuohien may be the first “Arkansan” to play for the Mountaineers. For sure, no native Arkansan has ever played for the program according to its all-time roster.
Expect Osabuohien to sit a season for Bob Huggins, then try to help the Mountaineers return the Sweet Sixteen where they landed in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Osabuohien will miss his teammates and fans in Fayetteville. He left this message on Twitter a few days ago:
“I would like to thank the University of Arkansas for the great memories I’ve had over the past 2 years,” Osabuohien recently Tweeted. “I would like to thank Coach Mike Anderson and his coaching staff, and Coach Musselman and his coaching staff for allowing me to grow as a young man on and off the court.
I want to thank Razorback Nation for the love and support they’ve given me since I have been here. Lastly my teammates throughout the years and brothers for life, thanks for having my back.
I will always be a Razorback.
PS: Of course, should he ever miss the Ozarks of Arkansas too much, Gabe will be happy to know he does have closer options: