Shooting The Rock

If there's one thing about John Beilein's motion offense, it's that it favors shooters.

The Mountaineers have had some great shooters over the years, from Jerry West back in the day to Chris Leonard in the early 90's. The past couple of years, Beilein's oldest son Patrick has proven to be the Mountaineers most consistent outside threat. Heading into his junior season, the younger Beilein is expecting big things from the team.

Beilein didn't have a bad sophomore season by any stretch of the imagination. I, for one, will forever remember his step back 35-foot three in the midst of the fierce comeback the Mountaineers nearly pulled off against Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament. Patrick finished the season averaging 9.3 points per game, and shooting over 40% from beyond the three point arc. He also shot nearly 80% from the charity stripe, and made his first 32 foul shots of the season before snapping that streak against Virginia Tech. With just two seasons under his belt, he's already tenth in career three-point field goals made in Big East Conference history, and eighth in that category at West Virginia. For all his success though, Beilein feels he can do better.

"We worked pretty hard with agility over the summer, especially me. I've realized my quickness is a lot better. That will help me out a lot on defense. If I can do that, that's going to help out everyone," says Patty B when talking about what he worked on hardest over the summer.

"Overall, practice has gone pretty well. We're playing hard, so I think we're ready to get back into everything," said Beilein of his early observations from the Mountaineers practices.

With the addition of St. Bonaventure transfer Mike Gansey, and incoming freshman Darris Nichols, as well as the return of fellow junior Jo Herber, one might think that Beilein's minutes will be cut at least some. Beilein still feels comfortable with his spot as the sixth man, though.

"That doesn't bother me, coming off the bench. It's my role and I've accepted that. I kind of like coming off the bench and giving the team a lift," says the junior sharpshooter.

With so many veteran players coming back, the Mountaineer cagers look to make some noise in the Big East this season. Despite being picked ninth in the preseason poll, the Blue and Gold are a confident bunch.

"With everyone coming back, and our leaders in the senior spots with Tyrone and D'Or we should have at least three more wins than we did last year. Maybe we can go from seventeen wins to twenty. Maybe we can hit a long last second shot and the other team can miss a long last second shot. We need some breaks to go for us, and if that happens we have a great chance.

"This team...we have the determination to get to the NCAA tournament if we work hard and do everything the coaches are saying. If we do that, we can be an NCAA tournament team and hopefully great things can happen from there," sums up the sixth man.

Beilein brings a great, great outside shot to an offense that outside shooters can thrive in. For him to get more minutes, he will have to improve the other areas of his game. There's no reason to believe he hasn't done that, but we won't know for sure until the Mountaineers take the court for a real game.

This is a big year for Mountaineer hoops. With the additions of Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, and DePaul into the Big East next season, this is probably the Mountaineers' best chance to make the NCAA Tournament since the 1998 Sweet Sixteen team. Continued improvement from Beilein and his teammates will only make that goal easier to attain.

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