Perseverance Key For WVU's Macon

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s a bounce in the steps of West Virginia’s Elijah Macon – and it’s not all because he lost those final pounds of “baby fat” left over from high school.

Macon’s journey to WVU, along with more tribulations upon arrival, easily could have derailed his career. The talented forward spent a season at Brewster Academy out of Huntington Prep, then had his full eligibility delayed because of partial qualification that rendered him unable to practice with the team for a full year. There was a wrist injury, then an arrest and disorderly conduct charge before the passing of his mother, Renai Michell Payne, last November.

But that’s when things began to truly come together, both for Macon and a Mountaineer team that – with an overload of positive energy on and off the floor – rallied around him for support. Upon Macon’s return, West Virginia dusted George Mason, Boston College and a chirpy Connecticut team to win the Puerto Rico Tip-off Challenge, its first in-season tournament championship since the Final Four team took the Anaheim Classic five years earlier.

Macon was a significant contributor, scoring nine points – two best off his career high – in the opener versus George Mason before playing half the game against the 17th-ranked Huskies to tally seven boards and six points in the 78-68 victory to go to 5-0. Two games later, the Mountaineers stayed undefeated, beating the College of Charleston while wearing a patch with the initials "RMP" stitched into it, the tribute remaining on the uniform for the remainder of the season.

Macon would eventually average four points and three rebounds a game in an up-and-down year in which he was adjusting to the nature of the collegiate game as well as the multiple off-court concerns.

With that came a certain coming of age, a thrust into adulthood that Macon himself admits he might not have readily acccepted at the same point a year ago. His demeanor is one of a calmer confidence, a kind of depth that didn’t exist last season.

“More mature,” he says when asked the biggest of differences. “More focused. I have a better work ethic this year. I’m taking care of my body better, I’m running better. I’ve gotten way stronger. I just had to run off this baby fat I had.”

Bob Huggins said Macon is in the best shape since he was a freshman at Marion-Franklin High in Columbus. He’s down to 235 pounds from the 250s at points last year after having trimmed that bit of excess around the middle, and some excesses out of his life, and is positioned to be a leader in terms of performance and guidance for the younger players.

“They are all 18. They didn’t come here like me,” Macon said. “I was 20 when I first got here. I know they need some help just like we did. How Gary (Browne) and (Juwan Staten) did it last year, that’s how I’m going to do it. … It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to come to West Virginia since 2008. I’m ready to have fun.”

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