There comes a point in every preseason, regardless of the sport, where players become tired of competing against teammates and need the challenge of facing off against an opposing team in live game action to improve and learn more about their capabilities. It sounds as if the West Virginia basketball team has reached that point and as it prepares for its first contest of the year head coach Bob Huggins said his team is more than ready to play in a meaningful game in front of a live audience.
"They get tired of playing against each other," Huggins said. "They have been here all summer and played against each other all summer. It was good to play in the two exhibitions but it's a lot more fun when there are people in the stands."
The Mountaineers will open up with a Mount St. Mary's team that finished 14-19 and finished sixth in the Northeast Conference a year ago. Huggins gave his thoughts on the Mount and said it should be a fun game because Mount St. Mary's likes to press and shoot threes as well.
"They're going to shoot a lot of threes," Huggins said. "They will shoot a lot of threes and they will press. It will be an interesting game because they're going to press and we're going to press and they shoot a lot of threes and we have been shooting a lot of threes. It will be fun to watch though, if we win it."
Unless there is a major shake up prior to tip off, the Mountaineers will go with a starting five of Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Nathan Adrian, Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon. It's impossible to know for sure who will be the first man off the bench but all signs point to Tarik Phillip who is looking to bring the same energy as a sixth man that Jaysean Paige did a season ago. Huggins discusses Phillip and the enthusiasm he brings to the court when he comes in.
"He brings energy and that's important," Huggins said about the senior guard. "We need a guy who comes in and brings that energy, especially with the way we play."
Nathan Adrian, a Morgantown native, has drawn rave reviews from Huggins in the off-season and displayed consistent play on both sides of the ball. In the scrimmage against WVU Tech, Adrian scored 26 points in only 15 minutes and was extremely effective at the top of the press. And while Adrian may not possess the same athleticism as Jonathan Holton he feels he can still be just as effective in the Mountaineers' full court pressure defense.
"Hopefully we can do the same things that we did last year," Adrian said in reference to the press. "I'm not as long as Jon but I make up for it. I know where I need to be and what I need to do so as long as I do that then I'll be fine."
While Adrian will certainly be called on to do more on the offensive and defensive ends of the court this year he will also be asked to provide valuable intangibles such as leadership. That is something that the senior has embraced and has done so by example, as Adrian put it he has never been an overly vocal player.
"It hasn't been too different," Adrian said. "I have been preparing the same way even though I'm in a different role that coach has asked of me. (Huggins) understands that I know what to do and he understands that I can help people more than I could in my freshman or sophomore year, I just play as hard as I can every day. I have never been a vocal guy, I just play as hard as I can and hopefully (the younger players) will follow,"
And as the Mountaineers prepare for a game in which they will be heavy favorites tomorrow night, Adrian details what he expects to see and learn from his team.
"Just improving on execution," Adrian said. "You can run plays in practice but you don't know how they'll go in a game so these first 15 or whatever games are very important from that aspect."