Good Picks

It's an innocuous fast break drill – three offensive players against two defenders. One that any basketball player has run numerous times. Most times, the offense is successful, but on occasion the defense tips the ball away or gets a stop. On this particular repetition, the defense gets a hand on a pass, and the ball goes flying, about shin high, out toward midcourt. For most players, that would signal the end of that possession, but for Mountaineer forward Mike Gansey, it's an opportunity.

The junior transfer, who brought a reputation as a hustling gym rat with springs in his legs, sees any loose ball as an opportunity. Gansey dives with full extension, gets his hand on the ball, and tips it to a teammate for a layup to turn a defensive stop into an offensive win. But why in the name of James A Naismith would someone lay out for a ball during the first week of practice, and in a drill no less?

"That's just the way I play. If there's a loose ball I feel like I can get or have a chance at, I'm going to go for it," Gansey explained. "At Bonaventure, that was sort of my trademark. I probably had stitches five different games there, and left blood everywhere. That's just the way I want to play. I think it helps our team and gets them motivated, and maybe they will do it next time. You've just got to go 110%.

Ah, St. Bonaventure. Gansey was a standout sixth man for the Bonnies, and likely would have completed his career there were it not for the eligibility scandal that embroiled the team during the 2002-03 season. The resulting NCAA sanctions and bad atmosphere around the basketball program led Gansey to seek a transfer, which he views with evident relief.

"It's just night and day," Gansey said of the difference between the Mountaineer and Bonnie programs. "My whole sophomore year at St. Bonaventure, it was a mess. I kind of saw it coming, because we'd have fights in practice every single day. I'm sitting there, and it's not ‘What are we going to do to get better today?' It was like "What's going to happen today?' When all the other stuff happened, it was crazy. I had reporters knocking on my dorm room, and I couldn't even get to my car. It was just crazy.

"Then when I came and visited here, it was totally different. Obviously, Coach Beilein is clean, and he doesn't cheat, and he's just like another father. I've learned so much from him, and he's a proven coach. I just couldn't pass it up. At St. Bonaventure, the coach wasn't really a father figure. You'd see him on the court, but not anywhere else. With Coach Beilein, he's everywhere. It seems like he cares as much about you and your schoolwork as he does about basketball. He wants to make you a better person, and that makes me want to go play hard on the court for him every time you go out there."

The move left Gansey feeling like he had gotten a last-minute reprieve from a stay of execution, but that wasn't the half of it. In addition to getting a fresh start with a Big East program, Gansey also found a great new friend in Mountaineer guard Patrick Beilein.

"Pat and I have just clicked. Ever since I've gotten here, we have been best friends," Gansey said. "Last year we didn't room together, but we had three classes together and were just together all the time. It's so much fun. You have a bad day and you see him, and he says a few words, and you just forget about it. We pick each other up. To have a dream college roommate, he's the one."

Of course, last year wasn't all milk and honey for Gansey, who is the prototypical gym rat. Being forced to sit on the bench, unable to help his teammates, was tough on the ultra-competitive Ohio native.

"The road games I didn't mind, because I wasn't there, but the home games were tough. I dressed up and just sat there. You feel like you should be out there helping them out. I do feel like I got better [during practice], and I think I got mentally better. I was able to learn how Coach Beilein does things, and I watched other guys on the court. I think I was able to pick up a lot of little things that way."

Now comes the payoff. Fresh off his first game action with the Mountaineers on their summer European tour, Gansey is looking forward to helping his new team in the real season, which gets underway in a little more than five weeks. And although WVU will be playing in the toughest conference in the country, Gansey believes that the future is bright for WVU.

"Last year we won 17 games, and we have everyone coming back, plus some good newcomers," Gansey observed. The sky is the limit as long as we stay healthy and keep doing what coach Beilein says. I think we can put ourselves in position to be picked on Selection Sunday."

Who better than Gansey, who made the right choice for himself in picking a new school, to hold the belief that the Mountaineers are ready for picking by the selection committee?

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