Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

West Virginia's Brooklyn Pod In the NCAA Tournament Means Homecoming for Mountaineer Guards

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- When the location Brooklyn, N. Y., flashed on the screen below West Virginia's name along with the first round match-ups of the NCAA tournament, it meant a homecoming for two Mountaineers, and a home state visit for a third.

All three New York natives are current West Virginia guards, and while two of them will be playing very close to their home areas in Brooklyn, the third hails from about as far away from the Barclays Center as possible while still being in the same state. Tarik Phillip and Teyvon Myers hail from the home borough where the weekend's NCAA games will take place, while Jaysean Paige is from Jamestown -- a steep 404 miles away. In fact, Morgantown is closer by some 20-odd miles to the home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets than Jamestown, is. Still, he's been involved in the competition for tickets to one of the premium professional venues in the land. His teammates are also in the mix, with Myers apparently getting a bit of a head start when he realized there was the chance that WVU could be going to the Big Apple.

Phillip, who joked about some wrestling matches for tickets (each player is allotted four), has never played in the relatively new structure. West Virginia last visited the Barclays in 2012 when it lost to Michigan, and a repeat of that game could potentially occur in the second round.

"I've never been in there, so it's a first time for me too. My mom is handling the tickets and who gets what, so she's dealing with that. We've been working on trading and getting tickets with each other. I need about eight or ten."

Phillip noted that he felt simple happiness when he he saw the location of the first two rounds.

"Being able to play in front of family and friends is good. It should be a good one. I will have to fight emotions a little at the start, but then the adrenaline takes over."

Playing in his usual role off the bench, Phillip shouldn't be troubled by nerves or emotions in this one, even though he'll have more friends and family in attendance than normal. He'll have the chance to watch a couple of minutes of action and get used to the flow before hitting the court, but once he does he will face a Stephen F. Austin team that will put a great deal of pressure on the Mountaineers in the halfcourt.

"I've watched one of their games that the coaches gave to us," Phillip said. "They do some of the things we do. They  try to take away passing lanes and keep you from reversing the ball. They like to get up and down. We just have to do a better job of turning them over than they do of turning us over."

That will, without question, be a key in this first-rounder. WVU lost the Big 12 championship because it couldn't forge its usual turnover advantage against Kansas. While the Mountaineers forced 20 turnovers, they gave the ball up 20 times too, eliminating the possession edge it usually holds. As one of the two primary ballhandlers, Phillip will have to adjust to that pressure and make good decisions in order for West Virginia to advance.

Or, perhaps, the edge will come from just being on home grounds. When asked what places he would look forward to visiting for a meal, he said, "I would just like some home cooked food." Maybe that bit of comfort, for a team that travels more than most every other Division I team, will be the biggest advantage of all.


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