Fitting In

Freshman point guard Tyler Relph is doing his best to fit in with West Virginia's rising basketball program after a highly-regarded high school career.

Relph, who has been under the microscope of Mountaineer fans since early in the recruiting process, knows that a lot of people will be watching him to see how he fares. However, the New York native doesn't feel any extra pressure as a result of the anticipated scrutiny.

"You can't let the pressure bother you," Relph said after an early season workout. "You just have to come in and put in hard work and see what comes out of it. I will try to do that, and whatever happens, happens."

Lest that statement seem to indicate a lackadaisical attitude, it should be pointed out that Relph is an intense competitor on the court, and that was evident from the first Mountaineer workout of the season. Relph, along with his teammates, shows no aversion to getting on the floor for loose balls or scrapping hard in box out drills. But while the sharpshooting guard has been working hard from the moment he entered the Mountaineer program, he has some adjusting to do to the increased pace of college practices in general and John Beilein's sessions in particular.

"The pace of practice is a lot different," Relph noted after just one session. "It's a lot faster, and we bounce around a lot. There are a lot of drills, and it's not like high school. You don't really know what you are doing at first, and you don't know how long the drills are going to be. You go hard, and it's one right after the other. It's a whole new brand of basketball for me."

As Relph begins his effort to work his way into WVU's playing rotation, he is concentrating on learning the offense and being a playmaker in West Virginia's motion based schemes. That's a bit of a switch for the high scoring guard, whose first option in high school was to fire away.

"Right now I'm just trying to get into the offense and get into the flow of things. I'm working on setting people up. Right now, I'm not going to focus on shooting a whole lot. I'm going to try to get Drew and other people open shots."

That sort of attitude will likely earn him bonus points from his teammates and coaching staff, as it's all too easy for a newcomer, especially a highly-touted one, to press while trying to live up to a prep reputation. However, Relph has shown no signs of any such problems at this point. In fact, Relph and the other incoming freshmen on the team are quickly becoming a tightly-knit group.

Along with Brad Byerson, Frank Young and Jerrah Young, Relph played on campus as part of a tema during West Virginia's summer basketball camp. That head start paved the way for some early friendships among the new Mountaineers.

"We played at camp together, and now we are hanging out together. We probably spend more time together than any other group of freshmen in the country," Relph said. "We've become good friends in just a little over three months, and I think that's pretty special. We can count on each other, and it's kind of like having a family away from home.

"I've been happy here, it's been an easy transition for me. It's been tough being away from home, but I like the people here."

Despite Relph's unassuming start, his gaze remains targeted on helping the Mountaineer team achieve their goals this year. And although West Virginia returns all five starters from a year ago, the confident freshman believes that he can earn some playing time this year.

"I wouldn't have come here if I didn't think I could make an impact. I'm going to do what coach says and help win some games and go to the NCAA Tournament. With five starters returning, I know that it will be tough. I just have to work hard."

Relph's main competition at point will be sophomore Jarmon Durisseau-Collins. And while Collins sturggled with his shot last year, his improvement over the off-season will make it even more difficult for Relph to unseat him. Relph, of course, brings long-range shooting as one of his primary assets.

"I think my biggest asset is shooting. I'm comfortable shooting from long range. I've been doing that pretty much my whole life," Relph said.

While practice has just been underway for a bit more than a week, Relph is already looking forward to one game on the schedule.

"I've talked to Coach Boeheim at Syracuse, and he told me 'maybe we should have offered you'. I kind of wish we were going up there (to the Carrier Dome, but it should be a good game here.

"Also, I think I'm similar to (Syracuse point guard) Gerry McNamara. I played him in AAU and a couple of camps. Hopefully I will be compared to him, because he did so well last year. Hopefully I will be able to do the same kind of things this year."

From all appearances, Relph is off to a great start in doing just that.


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