MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's run through the final four games of the regular season begins with one of the most unique challenges the Big 12 has seen. Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim led the league in rebounding last season. He's the top scorer this season.
No one in conference history has led the league in one category one season and the other category the next.
"I think he's improved from year to year," Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's had a great opportunity the last two summers playing for two different national teams - Nigeria two years ago and Canada this past summer.
He's worked extremely hard on his game, but I think the biggest improvement he's made is with his perimeter skills, not only with his shooting, but with his playmaking ability and his ability to handle the ball. He's really become the go-to guy for us."
Ejim, a senior from Toronto, averages 18.9 points per game. That includes a Big 12-record 48 points against TCU on Feb. 8 and a season-low six points against the Mountaineers two days later. The Cyclones (21-5, 9-5 Big 12) play host to the Mountaineers (15-12, 7-7) at Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The game at Hilton Coliseum will be televised by the Big 12 Network (WQCW in Charleston) and features the league's top three scorers. WVU's Eron Harris averages 18.1 points and his 32 points Saturday pushed him past teammate Juwan Staten, who averages 18 points.
Staten, Ejim and his teammate and former Marshall guard DeAndre Kane are each well-rounded and each contenders for the Big 12's player of the year award. Ejim's scoring could make him Big 12 history while Kane and Staten are the nation's only players averaging 16 points, six rebounds and six assists.
In addition to his scoring for the Big 12's highest scoring team, Ejim is third in the conference with 8.2 rebounds per game and second in field-goal percentage (52.6) while shooting 34.6 percent from 3-point range. He averaged 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds last season and was only the third Big 12 player at 6-foot-6 or under to ever lead the league in rebounding.
"There's no secret to it," Ejim said. "It's just heart, not to say I have any more heart than other people. I just go out there and try and give it my all and try to get every one of them. Getting extra possessions helps the team win with the way we play. That was just my role last year, and I think I needed it. I really developed the last couple of years and it's something I'm good at now and something I continue to work on."