By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 21, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Three coaches, three deep NCAA Tournament runs and an end to West Virginia’s NBA drought were just a few of the highlights during a decade full of great moments for Mountaineer basketball.
It took John Beilein just two years after the retirement of longtime coach Gale Catlett to get West Virginia back into postseason play, and his 2005 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight season will go down as one of the most memorable in school history.
Beilein also led West Virginia to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance in 2006 and an NIT championship in 2007 before handing the program over to ultra-successful coach Bob Huggins in 2008.
Huggs promptly led WVU to a third trip to the Sweet 16 in 2008 and another appearance in last year’s tournament. This season, Huggins has WVU basketball poised to make a jump into the Top 5 for the first time in 48 years.
Mike Carey has had similar success with the WVU women. Since taking over a struggling program in 2002, Carey has steered West Virginia to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including back-to-back trips in 2007 and 2008.
Twenty of West Virginia’s 28 appearances in the AP weekly Top 25 have come under Carey’s watch, and twice, against fourth-ranked Rutgers in 2008 and against fifth-ranked Louisville last year, Carey has knocked off Top-5 teams.
Carey has led the WVU women to four 20-win seasons in the last six years with this year’s team on target to reach the 20-win plateau once again.
The MSNsportsNET.com basketball all-decade teams features All-American players, pro draft picks and several record-setting performers.
MSNsportsNET.com Men’s Basketball All-Decade Team
“You’ve just been Pittsnogled” was the most popular way to describe the accurate shooting of heavily tattooed, 6-foot-10-inch shooting center Kevin Pittnsogle, who in 2006 became the school’s first basketball All-American since 1972.
Pittsnogle scored 1,708 points including 28 20-point games to help West Virginia to a pair of deep NCAA Tournament runs in 2005 and 2006. A Wooden All-America Team selection in 2006, Pittsnogle also earned NABC All-America honors that season after averaging 19.3 points per game and shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range.
Pittsnogle finished his fabulous career with Top 10 school marks in scoring, 3-point field goal shooting, free throw shooting and blocks.
Pittsnogle is MSNsportsNET.com’s choice as West Virginia basketball’s player of the decade.
Joining Pittsnogle in the frontcourt on MSNsportsNET.com’s all-decade basketball team are Da’Sean Butler and Joe Alexander.
Butler, a senior this year, has a good shot of becoming just the third player in school history to score more than 2,000 career points, joining Hall of Famers Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley. Butler was a second team all-Big East choice last year after averaging a team-best 17.1 points per game. Butler’s 43 points scored against nationally ranked Villanova last year were the third-highest total in Big East history.
Six-eight forward Joe Alexander blossomed into an all-Big East player and pro draft pick under Huggins. Alexander averaged 16.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a junior to earn first team all-Big East honors and AP honorable mention All-America recognition. Alexander finished his West Virginia career ninth in blocked shots and was just 10 points shy of scoring 1,000 for his career.
In the front court are two key members of West Virginia’s deep NCAA success: point guard Darris Nichols and shooting guard Mike Gansey.
Nichols is the NCAA record holder for most career games played without fouling out (141) and he is the single-season record holder for minutes played with 1,282 in 2008. Nichols led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio in 2007 and finished his career ninth in assists at WVU. He also was involved in more postseason victories (12) than any other player in school history.
It was Gansey’s clutch 19 points in overtime that helped West Virginia pull off a stunning 111-105 double-overtime victory over No. 2-seeded Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005. Gansey finished that game with 29 points, four shy of his career high of 33 points scored against Marquette a year later. Gansey also produced 24 points and made the key steal in a big upset victory at nationally ranked UCLA in 2006.
Gansey nearly scored 1,000 points in just two seasons with the Mountaineers after transferring from St. Bonaventure.
The bench features a pair of long-range 3-point shooters in Alex Ruoff and Frank Young, and a smooth operator in the paint in forward Calvin Bowman.
Bowman was a first team all-Big East choice in 2001 when the league was still only picking five players for its all-conference team. Bowman had 21 double-figure scoring games in 2001 and finished the season with averages of 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Young earned first team all-Big East honors in 2007 after averaging a team-best 15.3 points per game and hitting 117 3-point field goals. He scored 31 points in an NIT victory over UMass and helped the Mountaineers to their first NIT title in 55 years. Young was named NIT MVP.
Ruoff was also a big-time 3-point shooter, canning a school-record 261 career 3s including a single-game record of nine against Radford in 2008. Ruoff was one of just three players in school history with more than 1,400 points and 400 assists for his career. He also finished fifth sixth in career steals with 189.
PG – Darris Nichols
Big East sportsmanship award in 2008 … NCAA record holder for most career games played (141) without fouling out … appeared in the most NCAA Tournament games (10) in school history … involved in 12 postseason victories in NCAA and NIT play … WVU single-season record holder for minutes played (1,282) in 2008 … had two straight 1,200-plus-minute seasons in 2007 and 2008 … only other player in school history with more than 1,200 minutes in a season was Jerry West in 1959 … appeared in more games than any other player in WVU history … ninth in career assists at WVU with 399 … sixth most assists in school history with 165 in 2007 … led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio in 2007 … three career 20-point games … seven points shy of scoring 1,000 for his career … two-time Big East academic all-star … NIT all-tournament team in 2007.
SG – Mike Gansey
First team all-Big East in 2006 … nearly scored 1,000 points in only two seasons playing for the Mountaineers … including his two seasons at St. Bonaventure, Gansey scored more than 1,600 career points … started all 68 games of his career at WVU … third in career 3-point field goal percentage (.394) at WVU … eighth in career field goal percentage (.526) and eight in career steals average (1.75) at WVU … 14 career 20-point games … scored a career-high 33 points against Marquette in 2006 … scored 24 points and made the game-winning steal in West Virginia’s big road win at UCLA … scored 19 points in overtime and 29 overall in West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament victory over No. 2-seeded Wake Forest … made 75 3-point field goals in 2006 … 30 double-figure scoring games in 2006 … Big East all-tournament team in 2005 … two-time Big East academic all-star … a member of the Gold medal winning team in the 2005 World University Games.
F – Joe Alexander
AP honorable mention All-America, first team all-Big East, and NABC all-district in 2008 … led the team in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (6.4) as a junior …scored a career-high 34 points at Connecticut on March 13, 2008 …14 career 20-point games … sixth most blocked shots in a season with 54 in 2008 … ninth in career blocks (99) at WVU … Big East all-tournament team in 2008 … two-time Big East player of the week … 48 career double-figure scoring games … had seven blocks in a game against Prairie View A&M on Nov. 18, 2007 … 10 points shy of scoring 1,000 for his career … left school a year early and was picked eighth overall in the 2008 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.
F – Da’Sean Butler
Second team all-Big East in 2009 … team leader in scoring averaging 17.1 points per game in 2009 … has a good chance of becoming only the third player in school history to score more than 2,000 points for his career … 43 points scored against Villanova on Feb. 13, 2009 were the third-highest total in Big East history … Big East all-rookie team in 2007 … two-time Big East rookie of the week … played for USA Basketball in the World University Games in 2009.
C – Kevin Pittsnogle
Named to Wooden All-America team in 2006 … NABC third-team All-America and first team all-Big East in 2006 … 2006 finalist for the Wooden and Naismith Awards presented to college basketball’s top player … two-time Big East player of the week and two-time rookie of the week … scored 1,708 career points and averaged 13.3 points per game for his career … 28 career 20-point games including 18 in 2006 … career-high 34 points against Canisius on Dec. 30, 2005 … second in career 3-point field goals made (253) and second in career 3-point field goal percentage (.411) at WVU … sixth in career free throw percentage (.816), sixth in career double-figure scoring games (84) and seventh in career blocks (109) at WVU … made 91 3-point field goals in 2006 … Big East and NCAA regional all-tournament teams in 2005 … shot .476 percent from 3-point distance in 2003 … Big East all-rookie team in 2003 … played for USA in the 2003 Global Games in Dallas, Texas … two-time Big East academic all-star … earned his degree in athletic coaching in 3 ½ years.
Bench – Frank Young
First team all-Big East in 2007 … MVP of the 2007 National Invitation Tournament … led team in scoring in 2007 with an average of 15.3 points per game … made a school-record 117 3-point field goals in 2007 … fifth in career 3-point field goals made (187) at WVU … eight career 20-point games … scored a career-high 31 points against Massachusetts in the NIT second round … 31 double-figure games in 2007 second to Jerry West as the most in school history.
Bench – Calvin Bowman
Voted Big East’s most improved player in 2001 … first team all-Big East in 2001 when only five players were selected to each all-conference team … two-time Big East player of the week … 27 double figure scoring games in 2001 and 46 for his career … averaged 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as a senior … sixth in career field goal percentage (.533) at WVU … 15 career 20-point games … 13-of-13 free throw shooting performance against Connecticut on Feb. 26, 2000 second best in school history while scoring a career-high 29 points … averaged 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for his career.
Bench – Alex Ruoff
Big East scholar-athlete award and sportsmanship award in 2009 … honorable mention all-Big East in 2009 … first team CoSIDA Academic All-America in 2009 and third team in 2008 … averaged 15.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as a senior … West Virginia’s single-game (nine) and career (261) 3-point field goal leader … scored a career-high 38 points against Radford on Dec. 23, 2008 … one of only three players in school history with more than 1,400 points and 400 assists for his career … sixth in career steals at WVU with 189 and seventh in career assists with 410 … 15 career 20-point games … made 98 3-point field goals in 2008 … third most assists in school history in 2007 with 191 … fifth most steals in school history with 72 in 2007 … four-time Big East academic all-star.
MSNsportsNET.com Women’s Basketball All-Decade Team
Mike Carey’s rebuilding job at West Virginia finally took hold when he landed center Olayinka Sanni in 2004. She gave the Mountaineers an immediate post presence it lacked and helped them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2008.
A two-time first team all-Big East performer, Sanni’s 1,602 points scored were the seventh most in school history. Twenty four times she scored 20 points or more in a game and completed her career in 2008 as the most accurate shooter in school history.
Sanni takes top honors as MSNsportsNET.com’s women’s basketball player of the decade.
Teammates Chakhia Cole and Meg Bulger are paired in the front court. Bulger was the first top recruit to come on board for Carey and she starred immediately as a freshman in 2005, earning Big East rookie of the year honors. As a sophomore her 18.6 points-per-game scoring average led the conference and ranked 18th nationally. A pair of serious knee injuries kept her from even greater acclaim, although she did manage to finish her career fifth in scoring with 1,665 points.
Cole was the team’s rock, starting a school-record 130 games and finishing fifth in all-time Big East field goal percentage. Cole was the only player in school history to post consecutive 300-point, 200-rebound, 100-assist seasons and scored 1,316 points and grabbed 865 rebounds during her four-year career.
The all-decade backcourt features a pair of dynamic players in point guard Yolanda Paige and shooting guard Kate Bulger. Paige had terrific playmaking credentials, handing out a school-record 902 assists that ranked seventh in NCAA annals at the time. Paige led the Big East in assists three times and finished her career with 1,414 points – 14th most in school history.
Kate Bulger, the older sister of Meg Bulger, started West Virginia’s resurgence when she led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament as a senior in 2004. Bulger finished fourth in career scoring with 1,733 points and was twice named to the all-Big East second team. She is the school and Big East all-time 3-point shooting leader.
Coming off the bench is a trio of standout players.
Sherell Sowho scored 1,491 points and finished among the school’s Top 10 in steals, blocked shots and minutes played. Sowho finished second in 3-point shooting in the Big East as a senior in 2005.
Liz Repella earned second team all-Big East honors as a sophomore in 2009 when she became one of only four players in school history to score more than 500 points and grab more than 250 rebounds in the same season. Repella is closing in on 800 career points midway through her junior season.
And 6-foot-5-inch center Yelena Leuchanka had the second best career field goal percentage in school history (.569) but a series of knee injuries kept her from accumulating even more impressive stats. Leuchanka appeared in 41 games, producing double-figure scoring efforts in 17 of them. She later played two seasons in the WNBA and also appeared for her native Belarus in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
PG – Yolanda Paige
AP honorable mention All-America in 2005 … led Big East in assists in 2002 (5.7 apg), 2004 (8.2 apg) and 2005 (7.3 apg) … ranked fourth in the Big East in career assists in conference games only … holds every WVU assist record with the exception of freshman assists … handed out 902 assists during her career, at the time the seventh most in NCAA history … ranked fourth nationally in assists in 2004 and sixth in 2003 … school record holder for season (1,325) and career (4,556) minutes played … nine career 20-point games … 78 career double-figure scoring games … school-record 18 assists against Northwestern in 2004 … 1,414 points 14th most in school history … second team all-Big East in 2005 and third team all-Big East in 2004 … Big East all-tournament team in 2004 … WNIT all-tournament team … Big East all-rookie team in 2002 … played two seasons in the WNBA.
SG – Kate Bulger
Big East all-time 3-point field goal leader in conference games only with 161 … third in Big East all-time 3-point field goal attempts in conference games only with 404 … school record holder in career 3-point field goals (302) and 3-point field goals attempted (724) … WVU single-season 3-point field goal percentage record holder (.470) … 12th nationally in 3-point field goals made in 2004 … third nationally in 3-point field goal percentage in 2003 … second in the Big East in scoring in 2002 averaging 15.4 ppg. … 30 career 20-point games … 1,733 career points fourth most in school history … second team all-Big East in 2004 and 2002 … third team all-Big East in 2003 … Big East all-rookie team in 2001 … taken in the third round of the WNBA draft.
F – Meg Bulger
AP honorable mention All-America in 2006 … Kodak and WBCA honorable mention All-America in 2005 … Big East’s leading scorer with an average of 18.6 points per game and top 3-point shooter at .452 in 2005 … ranked 18th nationally in scoring in 2005 … fourth in Big East all-time 3-point field goal percentage in conference games only at .458 …ranked fourth nationally and first in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage in 2008 … WVU single-game scoring record of 38 points against Cleveland State in 2005 … WVU career 3-point field goal percentage (.437) and free throw percentage (.831) record holder despite enduring two serious knee injuries … six career 30-point games including five in 2005 … 29 career 20-point games … 1,665 career points fifth most in school history … unanimous first team all-Big East in 2005, second team all-Big East in 2006 and 2008 … Big East Sportsmanship Award in 2008 … WNIT all-tournament team … Big East Freshman of the Year in 2005 … six-time Big East rookie of the week … helped the Mountaineers go wire-to-wire in the national rankings during the 2007-08 season.
F – Chakhia Cole
Fifth in Big East all-time field goal percentage in conference games only at .545 … honorable mention all-Big East in 2007 … Big East all-tournament team in 2006 … played and started in a school record 130 career games … eight career 20-point games … 1,316 career points and 865 career rebounds … grabbed at least 200 rebounds in a season three out of the four years she played at WVU … had two consecutive 300-point, 200-rebound, 100-assist seasons, the only player in school history to do so … helped the Mountaineers go wire-to-wire in the national rankings during the 2007-08 season.
C – Olayinka Sanni
AP and State Farm Coaches’ honorable mention All-America in 2008 …two-time first team all-Big East in 2007 and 2008 … school record holder in single game field goal percentage (1.000), single season field goal percentage (.588) and career field goal percentage (.557) … ranked seventh nationally and fourth in the Big East in field goal percentage in 2008 … 24 career 20-point games … 1,602 points seventh most in school history … helped the Mountaineers go wire-to-wire in the national rankings during the 2007-08 season … played on the Nigerian National Team that competed in the 2006 World Basketball Championships … has spent the last two seasons playing in the WNBA and was a member of the Detroit Shock’s WNBA championship in 2008.
Bench – Sherell Sowho
Finished second in the Big East in 3-point shooting as a senior in 2005 … made at least one 3-poiont field goal in 19 straight games to close out her WVU career …18 career 20-point games and 75 career double-figure scoring games … 1,491 career points 10th most in school history … finished her career third in career 3-point field goals made with 191 … WVU Top 10s in career steals, blocked shots and minutes played … Big East all-rookie team in 2002.
Bench – Yelena Leuchanka
Had second-best field goal percentage (.569) in school history in 2006 … played two seasons in the WNBA and also participated in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games for Belarus … 17 career double-figure scoring games, including a career-high 20 points against Central Florida … had four career double-doubles … career plagued by knee injuries that permitted her to play in only 41 games at West Virginia.
Bench – Liz Repella
Second team all-Big East and academic all-district in 2009 … Big East scholar-athlete award in 2009 … closing in on 800 career points in 75 career games … one of only four players in school history to score more than 500 points and grab more than 250 rebounds in the same season … averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2009 … one of four Big East players to rank in the Top 10 in scoring and rebounding in 2009 … ninth in the Big East in scoring in 2009 … 39 career double-figure scoring games entering the Fresno State game.
Tomorrow: Varsity Sports all-decade performers