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Wildcat Frenzy: Kentucky Snags West Virginia Transfer Tre Mitchell to Bolster Their Basketball Dominance

Wildcat Frenzy: Kentucky Snags West Virginia Transfer Tre Mitchell to Bolster Their Basketball Dominance

The departure of previous head coach Bob Huggins following his DUI arrest on June 16 resulted in the loss of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ first player in official history.

Tre Mitchell, a transfer, committed to John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats on Monday after visiting the school over the weekend and still having one year of eligibility. The graduate transfer forward, who is 6 feet 9 inches tall, averaged 11.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers in 2022–23. Because of this, he won’t have to sit out a game for the Wildcats.

Mitchell played two seasons at UMass before moving to Texas in 2021 and West Virginia last offseason. Kentucky will be the fourth school he has attended throughout his college career.

Calipari’s decision to bring in a transfer from West Virginia has already paid off, as he made Oscar Tshiebwe a unanimous first-team All-American and winner of the National Player of the Year Award.

Although Mitchell has a different amount of rebounds than Tshiebwe, he still adds much-needed experience to a Wildcats team with seven rookies on the roster next year. Given Mitchell’s flexibility and 34.7-lifetime three-point shooting %, Calipari can be more inventive when putting together his lineups.

Mitchell’s pledge dramatically increases Kentucky’s chances of winning the national title, while West Virginia, viewed as a dark horse possibility, now has even more significant difficulties this offseason.

West Virginia University hired assistant Josh Eilert, who has never served as head coach, as interim coach. The school felt it necessary to act fast to maintain the team Bob Huggins had put together before being dismissed last week. On Monday, guard Joe Toussaint joined forwards Mohamed Wague and James Okonkwo in the transfer portal, drastically depleting West Virginia’s frontcourt.

Mountaineers on Shaky Ground: A Rocky Road Ahead as Key Player Tre Mitchell Commits to Kentucky

Huggins made a careless choice that put West Virginia and its players in an awkward situation. Calipari and the Wildcats are already enjoying the benefits, and more institutions are expected to follow their lead.

Since there were few choices available at the time and the players at WVU wanted to know who would be their coach before deciding whether to stay or transfer, athletic director Wren Baker made it abundantly apparent that this was a one-year appointment.

Eilert has been on staff for the past 16 years so the coaching chair will remain in the Huggins coaching family. However, it wasn’t until this year, following Erik Martin’s departure, that he was promoted to full-time bench assistant.

Throughout the process, Baker met with the players. He interviewed Eilert and current assistant Ron Everhart, whose extensive résumé includes a few head coaching positions at Duquesne and Massachusetts. Interviews were also conducted with Jerrod Calhoun, the head coach at Youngstown State, in his sixth season after serving as Huggins’ assistant at Fairmont State.

Many people believed that John Beilein, a former WVU coach who is currently working in the front office of the Detroit Pistons of the NBA, would be able to get the position if he applied, but he stated that at 70, “that ship has sailed.”

There were a few other mid-major names discussed. Still, it was obvious that Baker’s dance card was empty if he wanted someone with Power 5 experience because all of them were employed, would have significant buyouts, and were being asked to enter a challenging scenario.

Huggins’ replacement will be a significant undertaking because, despite a recent radio embarrassment that resulted in a three-game suspension and a $1 million salary cut to be donated to LBGTQ support groups, Huggins has maintained a near-cult status among WVU fans for his coaching and for all the charitable work he has done for the state as well as for the school and the hospital.

Three players — Tre Mitchell, Kerr Kriisa, and Joe Toussaint — have already joined the transfer portal, depleting the squad that Huggins had assembled using holdovers and the transfer portal and planned to contend for the Big 12 championship this year. All could still come back.

The players told Baker they wanted Eilert to be hired, and Baker believed this would be the best decision he could make to keep the club together because it would cause the least disruption.

From Huggins to Eilert: The Perfect Fit Emerges as Successor Qualifies for Mountaineers’ Top Position

In the course of his career, Eilert has been responsible for a wide range of tasks, including managing the wing and post players for WVU, on- and off-campus recruiting, on-court scouting, opponent scouting, film prep, scheduling, coordinating the daily internal operations of the basketball program, and organizing trips, camps, film exchanges, fundraising, and other special projects. After working as an interim assistant coach during the 2016–17 season, Eilert transitioned into a coaching position as an assistant coach this past season.

Eilert, a two-year letter-winner and one-year starter at Cloud County Community College, transferred to Kansas State and played basketball there for two seasons from 2002 to 2004.

As a senior, he was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team and was four times chosen for the Commissioner’s Honor Roll of the Big 12. In 2004, Eilert received the Keith Amerson Academic Award from K-State. He received KJCAA Academic All-America recognition as a sophomore while attending Cloud County.

Eilert, a native of Osborne, Kansas, graduated from Kansas State in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. In 2007, he graduated from Kansas State with a master’s degree in Intercollegiate Athletics/College Student Personnel.

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