Beilein Ball

If you drove by the WVU Coliseum on the morning of Oct. 25, you probably wondered why there were hundreds of cars in the parking lot.

No, they didn't belong to the lost souls still out celebrating Wednesday night's beat down of Virginia Tech. Instead, they belonged to the more than 280 basketball coaches from seven different states taking part in a coaching clinic put on by second-year head basketball coach John Beilein and his talented staff.

Coaching levels represented ranges from the middle school level all the way up to small colleges, with the majority falling in the middle at the high school level.

Among the coaches attending the clinic was former WVU point guard Jason D'Alesio. Mountaineer fans may remember D'Alesio, the gritty walk-on from Weirton who fought his way up the depth chart to earn the starting point guard job his senior year. He is currently teaching in Pittsburgh, and starting his coaching career as a high school assistant. No doubt he'll make a great coach one day.

The clinic ran from 9:00 am until just after 3:00 in the afternoon. The Mountaineer players were on hand as well to run through drills as instructed by the WVU coaches.

The morning started off with Coach Beilein lecturing on the importance of trapping defense and beating a trapping defense.

"Work on the little things. Little things are so important," he stated.

Next up was assistant coach Jeff Neubauer, who Beilein called "the top young assistant in the country." Neubauer talked about scoring off the dribble. As the Gold and Blue faithful know, junior slasher Drew Schifino is one of the best at this in the Big East.

"You don't have to be athletic, or explosive to score off the dribble," Neubauer explained. "You want the defender to make you dribble the ball."

New assistant coach Jerry Dunn taught about all the different ways to use a zone defense. He stressed the importance of players communicating on defense, no matter if it's a zone or man.

The morning session wrapped up with Wheeling Jesuit coach Jay DeFruscio leading a seminar on defense in general, but especially on pressuring the ball no matter what kind of playmaker or shooter has it.

Overall, the coaches seemed impressed with Beilein and his staff. WVU grad David Culicerto, the head coach at William Byrd High School in Roanoke, VA (he pointed out how good it is to be a Mountaineer in Hokie country), was among those singing Beilein's praises.

"I have heard nothing but good things about Coach Beilein. He develops skills and players very well. Hopefully I can take some of this back home and use it for my team."

After taking an hour for lunch, the entire Mountaineer basketball team came out for a Saturday afternoon practice.

"I have a template for every practice, whether it's a 2 hour practice or a 2 and a half hour practice," Beilein would later say.

Every minute of the practice is planned. The first seven minutes is for stretching and getting loose. While half the team stretches, the other half does ball handling drills to warm up. Halfway through the seven minutes, they switch.

There was a good sense of team unity. Following the seven minutes warmup, the team huddled at mid-court.

"How we gonna' practice," Beilein yells.

"HARD," the team responds.

"How we gonna' practice," Beilein repeats.

"SMART," the young Mountaineers yell back.

The rest of practice is conducted with a number of drills, but like everything else, never for an extended period of time.

"Hubie Brown once told me never to spend more than 10 minutes on one drill," Beilein said.

Beilein charts various things, such as assists, turnovers, and charges taken during practice to keep track of who is performing the best at what. He also announced that anytime big men Kevin Pittsnogle or D'or Fischer hit a jump hook shot in practice, he (Beilein) would do 5 push-ups. Needless to say, the two are trying to make that a big part of their game, and Beilein ended up performing about 40 push-ups on the day.

For the entire 2 hours of the practice, the players gave Beilein and his staff everything they have. In return, Beilein gave his players the utmost respect, constantly telling them "good job" or "way to go." When they made a mistake, he didn't berate them in front of the whole team, rather he told them what they needed to do to correct their mistake, and they did it.

At the end of the day, the sense was that this was a team ready to make the next baby step on the road to success. Even though last year ended a 14-15 record, the team improved by leaps and bounds, especially in fundamentals, over the course of the season. Expect to see even more improvement this season. In fact, the team expects to make great strides, as illustrated by their final breakdown after huddling up at the end of practice.

"1-2-3 NCAA!"


  • Trainer Randy Meador conducted a clinic of his own, only this one was involved a pair of sophomore point guards. Walk-on Nick Patella was held out of practice with a concussion suffered in practice this week, although he did shoot around a little bit on the side. Last year's starter, Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, practiced despite having what Beilein described as a "badly sprained ankle." That injury was sustained on the first day of full practice.

  • Don't be surprised to see D'or Fischer step out and make his share of 3 pointers this year. That's just a prediction.

  • No word yet on whether the inflatable Mountaineer will grace Coliseum-goers with its presence this year, but let's hope we've seen the last of it.

    Chris Richardson is a lifelong Mountaineer fan and a journalism student at WVU.

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