KANSAS CITY, Mo.–Over the last few weeks, Esa Ahmad has emerged in the West Virginia lineup and it is just what the Mountaineers need if they plan on making a long post season run.
In Thursday’s win over Baylor, Ahmad scored 21 points and sparked the Mountaineers surge after a sluggish start.
“I was just trying to find the creases in the defense and my teammates was finding me,” he said. “I was just trying to make the best play.”
The 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward had eight boards against the Bears. When sophomore forward Sagaba Konate sat down Ahmad asserted himself defensively and on the glass.
“Sags is a big presence in there,” Ahmad said. “He rebounds the ball and I wanted to be aggressive on the glass and put a body on their big man.”
That was something the Cleveland, Ohio native has been focused on of late. Through WVU’s last five games, Ahmad has been averaging 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest.
During those five games, he has blocked three shots and had six steals. Ahmad has looked more comfortable on the court.
” (I’m) just being aggressive,” he said. “My teammates trust in me. Coach just tells me to be aggressive. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
And it seems to be working for the junior.
“I feel good,” he said.
Ahmad’s return to the team, to some, was lackluster but his recent resurgence comes at the perfect time and is just what the Mountaineers need if they hope to make a deep post season run.
” (He) gives us another threat and he’s a guy who can- he can score inside and outside and we really need him to rebound,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “Baylor outrebounded us the first two games even though we were fortunate enough to win but they outrebounded us and that was a big emphasis this week was to make sure that we rebounded the ball and it was a big emphasis to Esa. But he was better in the press. He gets three steals. I thought he played really, really well. And he was the guy who I think when we struggled a bit against the zone to start with, he was the guy who we were really trying to throw the ball to.”
After Ahmad’s return, the Mountaineers seemed to struggle, as did the Shaker Heights alum but when he is on, Ahmad has the ability to be a real game changer.
“Esa Ahmad was tremendous tonight but when he first came back, I thought it took time for him to get acclimated,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. . He was, looked a little heavy, a little slow. Right now he’s playing like he was last year and because of that, I think their team is better now than they were in the beginning of the year, because he’s such a weapon for them, really knows how to operate their defense.”