Size Matters

West Virginia's basketball team is noticeably bigger this year, which will help both out front and inside. "Overall our team is bigger, it's stronger, it's faster," head coach Gale Catlett said. "We are not as big, but we have gained size."

The Mountaineers, almost to a man, are bigger and stronger this season. So while the frontcourt won't have All-Big East first teamer Calvin Bowman's pure height, it will have beefier, heavier players to control the blocks.

Eastern Kentucky transfer Chris Garnett is a solid 6-10, 260 pounds. He is muscular, and isn't afraid to bang inside. The biggest player, Garnett needs to absorb the pounding of practice after being away from game action for one year as he established residency at WVU.

"I am a lot stronger than a lot of guys on the team and a lot stronger than a lot of the guys in the Big East, I feel," Garnett said. "The work I put it, when it comes down to it, the Big East can't beat us up down low anymore."

Maybe. But it will help to have power forward Chris Moss -- the sure starter at the four spot -- who gained a few pounds as well.

"Moss, I would bet, will have a big year," Catlett said. "I don't know that there is any better overall player in the league at his size. There may be someone who can shoot it better, rebound it better, box out better, but in terms of an overall player, I don't think there are any at his size better than Chris Moss."

Hargett Stretches
Center John Oliver will toss in his 245 or so pounds and physical style of play, giving the Mountaineers three able-bodied inside players. Center Ales Chan will also figure into the mix. He added 10 pounds on his 7-1 frame.

At small forward Josh Yeager grew two inches during the offseason (he's now 6-8) and added 10 pounds to keep his strength and shot. His additional height should allow the Belington, W.Va., native to get off more shots against slightly shorter defenders.

Out front, freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett is stronger and quicker than Tim Lyles, who tore an ACL and will likely miss the entire season. Point guard Lionel Armstead added 10 pounds, and looks both heavier and more chiseled.

"I have to go to the basket, draw fouls, get to the free throw line," he said. "I have to play in there with the trees. I feel two times stronger, at the top of my game. I gained 10 pounds, and it did not hurt my speed, because I worked on that, too."

Jay Hewitt is stronger after a summer working on a Division of Highways road crew, and freshman point guard Drew Schifino gives the Mountaineers more height and a bigger wingspan at the spot.

"The lineup will produce," Armstead said. "As long as I have been here, this is the closest team I have been with, and this is the best freshman class."

The Mountaineers appear more ready than they have in years, though whether the added bulk and strength translates into wins is yet to be seen. But one is hard pressed to see how it would hurt.

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