Posted by Jay Jacobs on Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I have had an opportunity to watch several preseason practices and here are some of my observations in advance of West Virginia’s regular season opener against Loyola on Nov. 15:
Junior college guard Casey Mitchell is starting to catch on each and every day with what he’s supposed to do.
When you come in from the JUCO ranks, sometimes defense is secondary or way down on the list but it’s coming up for Casey. His offensive game is very, very good. At one time he was strictly a shooter and you can tell because he’s worked a lot on his shot. It isn’t anything for him to stand out there and probably hit 10 out of 12 from 3.
Now he has become more of a scorer. He has a wonderful move with the dribble where he’ll go left or right to get you leaning as a defender. Then he has a step-back and when he steps back, he creates that space for himself and his shot is so quick – such a quick release.
There will probably be some games where he’ll be very, very good and I think there will be some games where you will wonder what the heck he’s doing out there. That’s part of just growing up and playing at this level of basketball.
Bob Huggins has had great success with junior college players and the reason that we haven’t seen more of them here is because when he came here three years ago he inherited a lot of sophomores, which makes it tough to balance out your classes.
I see a lot of great leadership on this year’s team with the older guys taking the young kids coming in under their wings. For example, there is a real good working relationship between Danny Jennings and Wellington Smith. Devin Ebanks has helped out. Da’Sean Butler has been working with Dalton Pepper.
Huggins has still been mixing the gold and blue jerseys. If someone asked me today to name the starting lineup for the first game I could probably give you four of the five. I can’t hit the point guard because it’s just too close right now between Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant.
There is also a chance that Huggs could decide to play Mazzulla and Bryant in the backcourt at the same time. If Casey Mitchell scores 15 and his man gets 18 then there is a real good chance those two guys could be on the floor at the same time.
Speaking of Truck and Mazzulla, Truck is shooting the ball well but after I saw Mazzulla the other day, his shot is so much better with his release and his positioning. Joe can also shoot the ball with both hands close to the basket.
With the players and the depth Huggins has this year I think you are going to see more pressure with West Virginia going down the floor three-quarter court and full-court.
The weight sophomore Kevin Jones has added during the off-season is really making a difference. Once he gets position in the low post he’s not getting pushed out of there. He’s always been such a hard worker and I would think that he will be the first sub off the bench, mainly because he can play two positions – power forward and center.
When we start the season I don’t think Dan Jennings will be quite ready and I’m not sure Dalton Pepper will be ready even though both of them are talented kids.
The best offensive moves in the paint belong to Deniz Kilicli, who just stuns me every day with the way he plays.
In any drill I’ve watched it’s five on five and they really go at it. You’ve got Mazzulla playing against Truck and then reversing it. You’ve got Butler going against Jones and sometimes Pepper. John Flowers is in that mix and he’s been playing Butler some. At every spot there is great competition.
There is no defense that I think you can throw against Devin Ebanks when he’s in the mid-range area. And he is shooting the ball much better this year from 3. When he catches the ball in that foul line area I don’t think there is any defense that he can’t conquer.
On paper, I don’t know if there has been a team this good or this deep in a Mountaineer uniform in a long time. I can’t go back and find 10 guys this talented and this skilled as what the Mountaineers have out there right now.
I think teams will extend their defenses against West Virginia because I see them having a lot of trouble handling Ebanks, Butler and Mitchell in the half court.
More so than the last two years, if you look at the practice schedule and you look at the time allotted for each drill, I think this year more minutes have been devoted to the offense. Huggs has set a goal of 70 points per game. He thinks if West Virginia can score 70 points that will be enough to win basketball games this year with the way his team plays defense.
Screen, cuts and floor balance is very important to Huggs. You would think that he has been very simple with his offense with not a lot of creativity and that’s not been the case. He has offensive rules for his players and those rules had better be kept.
I have also had a chance to watch some of Mike Carey’s practices with the women’s team and I have been really impressed with the athleticism and the skill he has this year.
||Korinne Campbell |
Right now the lineup that looks the strongest to me is Sarah Miles and Liz Repella in the backcourt, with Madina Ali and Minnesota transfer Korinne Campbell on the wings, and freshman Asya Bussie at center.
Coming off the bench right now look for freshman Akeema Richards at backup point guard, a very much improved Natalie Burton inside, and Vanessa House as a shooting specialist on the wing.
Mike doesn’t have a lot of players out there, but the ones he’s got are very, very solid and I think this group has the ability to win a lot of basketball games this year.