Men's Basketball Wraps Up Second Week of Practice

West Virginia's basketball team focused on position drills and physical defense to complete its second-week of practice Friday.

The Mountaineers, which have just two weeks before their exhibition game against Argentina, split the squad for the first half of practice before ending with five-on-five drills.

The forwards and centers matched-up for inside work on shooting with ones back to the defender. The players took turns posting up and twisting inside for hook- shots and layins against a similarly-sized defender.

D'or Fischer and Kevin Pittsnogle went head-to-head, as did Luke Bonner and Robert Summers. Fischer and Pittsnogle worked primarily the right hand, while Bonner, true to form, took a majority of southpaw shots.

Guards, meanwhile, practiced backdoor cuts and feeding the ball for quick layups. Also, the small men worked the baseline. Players faked inside before popping out and catching a pass for a quick eight-to-12 foot jumper.

If players were not working the drills they stretched and practiced free throws. It is a testament to head coach John Beilein and his staff that no time is wasted throughout practice and players are never idle.

For example, at one point all players were in drills except Darris Nichols and Jo Herber. The staff told them to get a ball and practice moving up and down the floor against each other as through trying to dribble through a one- man press.

Three-man rotations were next put together at both ends of the floor as all players worked on a quick-catch-and-release behind the arc. No dribbling was allowed, and that is something WVU has tried to better itself at – just releasing the shot so defenders do not have time to face-up or block a shot.

Centers and forwards also attempted to catch tossed airballs and put them back, simulating a tip or short shot in a game situation.

A guard, forward and center were then teamed for three-on-three drills. The offensive goal was a good shot, while the defenders tried to force the ball away from the basket. J. D. Collins repeatedly denied the dribble drive, and Fischer's lanky inside presence pushed most players farther outside. Mike Gansey was able to penetrate a couple times for decent shots and layins.

The halfway point of practice saw one-on-one work become a focus again. Players matched-up and tried to get open for a pass and take either a backdoor layup, or, if forced into the backcourt, to beat their own man to the hoop.

Collins was easily the best defender in this drill. Pairing against Tyrone Sally, Collins dogged him. The junior guard hit a deep fadaway jumper that ripped the net, then blocked Sally as the senior went in for a layup. Sally, exasperated, tossed the ball to midcourt in disgust while Collins rejoiced.

The most entertaining drill of the day, however, came in three-on-three action. Offenses got the ball then proceeded to score. If they did score, when the ball came threw the net it was again live and could be regained by that offense again. Out-of-bounds was not called, so neither were many fouls, so players wrestled for loose balls and tie-ups went on until one body went to the floor while another ripped the ball free.

If an offense scored and did not get the rebound, it went off the floor while the former defensive took possession and matched up with the other five players at the other basket. Once the other set of five players rebounded the ball, they went up the floor like on offense while the first set of five became defenders.

At one point, Pittsnogle was holding onto the basket after a dunk while trying to rebound the ball and put it back in again.

After each of the above drills players sprinted up and down the court two to four times before breaking off again to simulate and better game endurance.

One of the most beneficial things about John Beilein' s practices is the structured time for each unit to spend time together before piecing five players together. It allows players to get a feel for others at their position and helps to better utilize time. In the latter half of practice the teams are usually reassembled for five-on-five work.

That pattern followed Friday, as WVU finished with five-on-five drills. A glimpse into the first and second teams might have been given with the lineups. Collins, Herber, Sally, Pittsnogle and Fischer wore blue jerseys and were one unit. Pat Beilein, B.J. Byerson, Nichols, Gansey and Bonner were a second five. Ted Talkington, Nick Patella, Robert Summers, Frank Young and Duriel "Juice" Price were the other five.

A short shoot around ended the session, as the floor had to be cleared for the women's volleyball team (which looks for its 12th win in 15 games tonight versus Connecticut.)

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