Basketball Practice Rolls Ahead

While the football team is beginning its November drive for a bowl game, the Mountaineer basketball team is toiling on the practice floor in preparation for the regular season, which is a mere three weeks away.

The Mountaineers have been hampered a bit by injuries at the point guard position, with both Jarmon Durisseau-Collins and Nick Patella missing parts of some practices. JDC, who turned an ankle during the opening session of the fall, has improved and returned to the floor, but Patella was still missing some drills as late as last week.

Although head coach John Beilein is not a run and gun style mentor, he does want the Mountaineers to improve their transition game, especially the inside-out combination that his Richmond Spiders used to devastate West Virginia during the opening round of the 2001 NIT.

In that game, Richmond would push the ball downcourt and into the lane on the fast break, even when WVU had superior defensive numbers. When the Mountaineers dropped into the lane to cover the penetration, the next pair of Spiders down the floor would spot up in three point range and wait for a kickout pass. More often than not, West Virginia would be slow to recover, leaving the Spiders with open three point looks. As a result, Richmond canned a number of first-half threes and blew the Mountaineers out by the score of 79-56.

Of course, no transition game can function without effective defensive rebounding, which is one reason WVU's transition offense was almost non-existent last season. With the hope of better boardwork this year, a great deal of time has been spent on transition offense during the preseason.

Another item being stressed by Beilein is the importance of communication. The coaches emphasize that communication, especially on defense, is vital to having effective team play. Thus, the coaches are demanding that every player talk on every trip down the floor. Whether it's calling out screens, recognizing a play or letting a teammate know where each player is located, sharing information has been a focal point of the first couple weeks of practice.

With Kevin Pittsnogle and D'or Fischer having displayed outside scoring ability, a great deal of work is also being done on their inside games. Pittsnogle is displaying more comfort in the lane, and although he's never going to be Craig Smith yet, he should be a bit more effective in the paint this year. Fischer has also shown the ability to hit shots from the high post, which should force defenders to come out and cover him when he's handling the ball at that position.

Along with defensive rebounding, getting a few extra possessions on offense has also been emphasized this fall. One drill has three teams going head to head for rebounds, with the losing team doing some running as penance for not coming up with enough caroms. Brad Byerson has shown some good skills to go along with his increased bulk in this drill, and surprisingly, Durisseau-Collins has also shown the ability to find a gap among the big bodies and snare his share of boards.

West Virginia's only public preseason game is just 12 days away, following the football team's home battle with Pitt. WVU will have a closed scrimmage this weekend with Kent State, but that session is not open to the media or the public.

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