November 13, 2009
Welcome to Jay-Mail! Jay Jacobs stopped by Friday morning to answer some of your questions about West Virginia basketball.
In addition to covering Mountaineer men’s and women’s basketball for the Mountaineer Sports Network, Jacobs also writes Basketball Beat for MSNsportsNET.com.
Jordan (West Virginia): What are the chances that the men's basketball team runs into trouble with the depth early in the season while missing Kilicli? And so you think having him back by tournament time will help us make a strong run?
Jay Jacobs: I don’t think there will be a problem with depth early, but the Turk will be quite an asset to this team when he comes back in February. February and early March is the perfect time heading into the tournament where he can help us and he should be fresh then.
Bernard Shaw (Texas): Assuming we are a better rebounding team this year, I would like to see us fast break more as well as use the full court press (man to man and zone)more. Any chance that will happen?
Jay Jacobs: We will be extending our defenses more this year because of the depth. You are right, Bernard, the rebounding will start our fast break and we will be a team that will push the ball a lot at every occasion and our presses (zone and man-to-man presses) are going to help us create more scoring opportunities, which Huggs wants. This team is going to average more than 70 points per game – this team has too many offensive weapons.
Hoss Gibson (Wheeling): Why in the world is Kevin Jones coming off the bench when he is obviously one of our best players and lead our team in FG% last year and this year points and rebounds, what is he doing wrong in practice that he ain’t starting? Tell Huggs we want a Final 4 this year. Lets Goooooo Mountaineeeers!
Jay Jacobs: Kevin Jones has been one of the five-best players in preseason and the first exhibition game, I think that has been very obvious. Huggs has always liked to have a player such as KJ’s talent coming off the bench with the energy that he gives. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Kevin doesn’t start for this team in the near future the way he has been playing. He’s certainly earned that opportunity.
Eric (Ringgold, Georgia): I couldn't help but noticed that Flowers fouled out in 11 minutes of action. What can be taken from this, with it being in an exhibition game against an NAIA opponent?
Jay Jacobs: In my opinion, Eric, John Flowers has had a much more mature beginning to this season then the past two years. Huggs asks two things from John when he comes off the bench – rebound and defend. He has had some problems with defending by not getting into the right position and that is causing him to have to hold on and use his hands too much. As a result, the fouls will be called and they are working with him on that in practice. His foul shooting was improved in the exhibition game and that is a good sign. If he continues to make foul shots that will keep him on the floor longer.
Larry (Ft. Ashby): Do you think Joe Mazzulla will play this season? Is he going to be healthy?
Jay Jacobs: Joe Mazzulla will play this season. His problems have been tendonitis and arthritis in the left shoulder. Randy Meador (team trainer) is as good as there is at keeping players in the right frame of mind to perform. Joe will come off the bench with defense in mind; offense is secondary. Joe knows where every player on the floor is and what their role is, and Joe has that ability to think past first and gets the ball to these players where they are best able to perform offensively.
Ted Wilker (Texas): WV men’s team is real deep with so many guys who want to score. They had freshman taking a ton of shots vs. Mountain State (Pepper took 11 shots in 13 minutes) and their defense gave up a boat load of points. Do you think these guys can learn to play together and leave their egos off the court?
Jay Jacobs: These guys with offensive ability certainly are confident players with their offensive game. There are so many shots to go around in a game and with this offense that Huggs has, there are going to be games when one player will get more shots than others. If you look at the top three offensive weapons, Butler, Ebanks and Mitchell, they all three bring a different offensive game to the court and it makes it very hard for defenses to concentrate on them. That leaves two other players, Bryant and Smith/Jones, and their roles are very important to this team. You mentioned Dalton Pepper taking 11 shots in 13 minutes, to be honest I liked that. Dalton Pepper has improved so much. It has been a little slow for Dalton to catch on, but all of the shots that Dalton took were open looks and their egos are not a part of this at all – it’s about winning.
Chris Turley (Cross Lanes): Jay, I'm 53, have been a dedicated radio based fan (with a few live games thrown in) from the mid 1970s and as time has passed have become a TV/Radio based fan as has everyone else. I say that to preface I've heard and seen you associated with Mountaineer Basketball for quite a while now and my question is - has there been a time when you enjoyed yourself more than you are right now? Obviously, we all love winning and we may be poised to do some of that this season, but one thing that makes me feel good and smile to myself is seeing others truly enjoy themselves doing whatever it is that they do. You seem to be right in the middle of your sweet spot ... Keep up the great assessment/commentary. Looking forward to a fun season, try to make Coach Huggins’ get out and walk a little and perhaps mention portion control. Guys that travel as much as he does often fall into very poor eating habits due to restaurant offerings ... Stay true to your school and have a great season.
Jay Jacobs: Thanks Chris for your comments. I am enjoying myself at 71 and being around Huggs has made me feel 20 years younger.
Dave Fulaytar (WVU HSC Employee): Went to the Mt. State game; we have a boat-load of talent if we stay healthy. Q: We launched so many three's, I had to glance at the bench to ensure Beilein wasn't back! Will we have a strong, inside offensive presence this year? Thanks, Dave
Jay Jacobs: We are shooting a lot of 3s and we are shooting them in transition. Our best 3-point shooter is Casey Mitchell and he has the green light to shoot the 3. Butler and Ebanks have worked hard on their outside shooting and it will be a great balance to our offensive game if our guys can hit those shots because there will be very few games when one or two of these guys won’t be able to hit those shots. This is a tremendous weapon to have. There is not a defense at mid-range that Devin Ebanks can’t conquer and it certainly will free up Butler, Casey Mitchell, and even Truck, who had 46 3s last year.
Joedy (Arizona): Has your age helped your game any?
Jay Jacobs: Yes.
Jason Lobban (Alderson): How big of a "project" is Danny Jennings, he's well built but I haven’t seen much basketball skill out of him.
Jay Jacobs: Good question, Jason. Danny Jennings is one of the most popular players on the team. He is well-built as you mentioned. He is trying to learn so much, so fast, and at times it has been very difficult. Personally, I believe if the Turk didn’t have to sit out 20 games, Danny Jennings would be a perfect candidate for a redshirt.
Sean (Frederick, Maryland): With the student section change, will there be an impact on the home games? WAY TO REPRESENT FREDERICK!!!! I am trying to get JAY-DAY and have a parade in your honor for all the great things you and your beautiful family has done for our community. WE LOVE YOU. GO MOUNTAINEERS!
Jay Jacobs: Huggs mentioned the other day that he really believes the changes will add to the atmosphere at games this year at the Coliseum and I agree. As for your comments about a Jay-Day parade in Frederick, I’m all on board. The only problem is that only you and I will probably be the only two showing up!
Brent Samples (Charleston): Who will be the toughest match-up for the Mounties this year?
Jay Jacobs: It is very easy to say Villanova, but there are several teams that could give us trouble with match ups. From the lower half of the conference down, Seton Hall, I think, will be a tough opponent because it’s early and it’s away. I would say Pitt because they are always a big rival and they were picked ninth preseason. From the upper half of the league Notre Dame will be tough on the road where we have struggled in the past. They still have the top player in the league; Connecticut with their size, and of course Villanova.
Charlie Elliott (Harrisville): Jay, I love the pre-season tournaments. It seems you get to play some quality opponents you might otherwise not get to meet. Where are we scheduled to go to in 2010 and in future years. Thanks.
Jay Jacobs: Charlie, I love the preseason tournaments also. What is a concern this season is that, prior to our first preseason tournament in Anaheim, we will have only played one game and one exhibition in 15 days. Then all of the sudden on Thanksgiving week we are playing four games in six days. That creates somewhat of a problem because once you get any type of rhythm going you shut down and you are back to practicing. The upside of that is Huggs is going to get more time on the court with the younger players so he can teach more of his system. It’s about teaching, testing your teaching skills, evaluating, and then reviewing the mistakes that were made and then not moving on as quickly as the veteran players would like because the younger players are not ready to move on. The 2010 tournament plans have not yet been finalized, but I am certain that they will be going somewhere.
Jeff (South Charleston): Being ranked as highly as we are to start this season, do you see overconfidence as being a potential problem? There are plenty of "resume" games early and it's extremely important that we come out focused.
Jay Jacobs: With Huggs in his 28th season he has the ability to recognize overconfidence. He said on his show last Monday that this is the most depth that he has had. Overconfidence can be cured very easily by sitting on the bench. If you don’t share the ball because you are looking to get your points, that is very recognizable and somebody will be there to take your place. Overconfidence will not be a problem early because there just aren’t enough games. If overconfidence would occur, it would happen after Anaheim should West Virginia be fortunate enough to win all three out there.
Dennis (Beckley): Jay how deep will the rotation be and do you think ten or eleven deep hurts the continuity or flow of play for scorers?
Jay Jacobs: Dennis, early season all coaches in college basketball tend to play a deeper bench. I don’t see any change in that here at West Virginia. What will happen as the season goes on is the bench will shorten and players beyond eight will become spot players. By spot player I mean someone like Cam Thoroughman coming in and doing what he does best – rebound, get physical and defend low-post players. He could be on the floor for six minutes and maybe not play for two games after that. If you had to name a top eight starting the season that top eight would be Butler, Ebanks, Mitchell, Smith, Jones, Truck, Mazzulla and Flowers, with Dalton Pepper on the bubble.
Fred (Morgantown): Will you come off the bench for the women’s basketball team this year? Really enjoyed your "preview" at Mountaineer Madness.
Jay Jacobs: I will, Fred, if you come off the bench with me at the next women’s game. Seriously, Mike Carey has done a super job of recruiting this year. In watching practice over the last couple of weeks, this team plays with a lot of energy and a lot of heart. Sarah Miles, with a hairline fracture in her the right hand, will be questionable to start the season. She wants to play but it will be up to Mike and the training staff as to how they handle that. They have a young front line, but they are all athletic, and Liz Repella leads a star-studded backcourt with Miles. Right now, Mike is looking to play about seven because he doesn’t have large numbers. He will be forced to play some zone this year because he doesn’t quite have the depth.
Thanks for sending in your questions. I really enjoyed them. I will be back to answer some more questions after West Virginia's tournament out in Anaheim. We'll see you then.