Pat Forsythe, who had a solid stretch of play against the Bulldogs, appeared primed to take the next steps in his basketball growth as WVU headed into the meat of its non-conference schedule. He played 15 minutes against State, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds while provided backup minutes for Deniz Kilicli and foul-plagued Kevin Jones. However, during practice preparations for Kansas State, he took a hit that knocked him out of the next two contests.
"I got caught on a back screen and got hit in a awkward position," Forsythe related. "I tried to play through it, but it was just something I couldn't do. I couldn't lift my arm above my head, so I had to sit out for a little bit."
Forsythe, who had a back in jury in high school, didn't think the latest problem was related to his previous injury. However, he did notice other after-effects when he returned to the floor.
"When I came back, I had lost my wind a little bit, so I had to play hard to try to get some of my conditioning back," he said.
It might seem odd that a player could lose ground in conditioning while missing just a handful of practices, given that they train nearly year-round. However, today's players are honed to such a fine edge that any drop-off in work results in a decrease in strength, and especially in endurance, and those can only be regained with work on the floor. Forsythe did a good job in working out prior to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game, and got back on the court for 13 minutes of action. He contributed three points and five rebounds, and again demonstrated good offensive awareness as he executed WVU's sets from both the high and low post.
Everything wasn't smooth however, especially in the first half when the Mountaineers had five freshmen on the floor for extended stretches. West Virginia had several unproductive possessions where it failed to get a good shot, and the inexperience of the players certainly contributed to that.
"We were shooting a free throw and I looked up and saw that all five of us out there were freshmen," Forsythe laughed. "I think we were just thinking too much. I think once we find a freshman leader, I think we might start rolling a little bit better. But it was a good experience for us to see what we can do together, Next year it's going to pretty much be us, and we will have to be ready to go.
"I think I can be that leader," he continued. "I have been working hard on getting my game better, and I am going to try to get everyone better too. Not just in the weight room and on the court, but getting everyone together. The seniors have been through all of this before. They know what to expect and what to do in different situations. If we mess up or get in the wrong spot they help guide us through and get us in the right spot. We have to be able to do that ourselves in the future."
Forsythe noted that getting in the right frame of mind is one of the keys for the young Mountaineers. Clearly, they were in the zone against Kansas State and Miami, but that wasn't the case against Texas A&M-CC.
"We came into the shoot-around and weren't really in the right frame of mind, so that had an effect," he said, echoing the thoughts of head coach Bob Huggins. "We'll make sure our heads are in it the next time. Every time you step on the court you have to play hard."
If Forsythe can be one of the youngsters to take on that role and communicate those lessons, both on and off the court, he will certainly be in position to be one of the leaders on Mountaineer teams of the future.