Deeds, Not Words

In one corner, there's Cam Thoroughman and Kevin Jones. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to get many players to join them as West Virginia's disjointed basketball season continues to take hits.

Following West Virginia's uninspiring effort in a 75-71 loss to Marshall, Thoroughman and other senior leaders gathered their teammates in the back of the bus on the way back from Charleston to discuss matters. Topics discussed included the need to work hard throughout practice and to get everyone, in the words of head coach Bob Huggins, "rowing in the same direction". Unfortunately, for some members of the team, those words were about as empty as a politician's promise.

For the second time in two days after that meeting, the Mountaineer roster took a hit, as the school announced the indefinite suspension of Casey Mitchell due to the ever-vague "violation of team rules". This is Mitchell's second such suspension this school year, although the first, which occurred in October, did not cause him to miss any games.

Mitchell's selfish act, whatever it was, underscores one of the main problems with this year's team, or at least some of the players on it. Too many people think only of themselves, and what they want to do (either on or off the court) rather than what's in the best interest of the team. Whether it's taking an ill-advised shot, not running the offense, breaking curfew or something more serious, acts such as these can crush any team.

This isn't to put the brunt of these problems on Mitchell. It also includes Noah Cottrill, whose issues were so serious that he never donned a WVU uniform, and Dan Jennings, whose departure from the bench left his teammates mystified. Whatever the reasons for the acts, they can be lumped under the same banner of selfishness, and it's one that has the potential to drop this year's team out of the race for a Big East tournament bye in a hurry.

It's not just the off-the-court stuff, either. Repetitive mistakes, a failure to learn from them and the insistence on doing things they way they want have been evident at times from some players this year, and have contributed mightily to at least three losses that should have been wins. Again, whatever the motivation, it boils down to selfish play.

It all points out, too, the hollowness of words when they aren't followed up by the right actions. It's easy to say 'Let's get it together, do what we're told and play with some emotion,' but it's much harder to do that every day in practice, where the real payoff for such commitment comes. That's not to say that the idea of or the motivation for the meeting was a bad one. Thoroughman, Jones and others appear to be doing what they can to get others to follow, but it's clear at this point that not everyone is in the boat -- much less rowing in the same direction.

"A couple of guys are taking it on their shoulders and trying to make that important for everyone," Thoroughman said of the need to bring effort and dedication every day. "That's what we older guys have to do."

They're trying, but the actions of some of their teammates speak far louder than anything that has come out of their mouths.

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