For West Virginia guard James "Beetle" Bolden, it comes down to earning trust. That can't be built solely in games, but must also come through the everyday grind of practice, meetings and video review. Coming off a redshirt season last year in which he didn't get the chance to demonstrate much on the practice court, Boolden has been going through the process of learning what it takes to be competitive at West Virginia -- and what it takes to getting the attention of the coaches.
Earning that trust is all-important, because if the coaching staff doesn't have it, a player isn't likely to be on the court in big games or at crucial times. That's not a reflection on the player as a whole, but simply a judgment that has to be made by the coaches -- what guys give me the best chance to win? What guys will be able to perform under pressure, and can be trusted to be in the right spots on defense and make good decisions on offense?
Bolden, like many first-timers, has to earn that. He has to show great practice habits. He has to listen to what is being taught and incorporate it into his game. It can be a slow process, and certainly a frustrating one for a competitive player who had to sit out a year. However, there are signs that the process is at least advancing. After not playing against either Temple or Virginia, and not appearing in the first half against Western Carolina, Bolden was called upon early in the VMI game, and came out with the starters in the second half after a sluggish first half Mountaineer effort.
"He's started to trust me more," Bolden said of head coach Bob Huggins. "Coming to practice, earning his trust, playing against the older guys, I'm giving it my all, and he's starting to notice that. I'm taking advantage of that, taking care of the ball."
That last is vital for a point guard, and especially for one at WVU, which has made a habit in previous seasons of giving back too many of the hard-won balls that Press Virginia generates. After suffering three giveaways in 11 minutes against Manhattan, Bolden was error free against WCU and VMI.
"Sitting our for a year kind of set me back in in-game situations," Bolden said of the transition back to live action. "I had to get the rhythm of the game and the flow of the game back. Getting out there and seeing a couple of shots go in has boosted my confidence."
That, and earning that trust. In addition to ball handling, Bolden has been focusing on defense in practice, obviously another Huggins key. He noted that getting stops against his fellow guards helps boost his belief in himself, which has to exist before others can see it.
Bolden has also adapted to the up and down minutes life of a backup. He got his season high of 14 minutes in the opener against Mount St. Mary's, but then saw those go steadily downhill. With 10 against the Catamounts and 13 against VMI, that trend has reversed, although it's difficult to see him pushing much past those levels, given WVU's depth in the backcourt. Still, there will be times when he's called upon to fill gaps due to foul trouble, fatigue or injury, and he's ready for that.
"Not really," he said of any difficulties in going from a star high school player to a backup at this point in his career. "It's just trusting the process and trusting the coaches. I believe in [Coach Huggins] and whatever he's doing, I'm going to believe in."