Basketball Practice Report

An emphasis on passing and team defense highlighted West Virginia's basketball practice Wednesday.

WVU started with perimeter passing drills. Ball safety was key, with the design to catch and pass away from defenders. The guards and forwards practiced flashing away from the defense and putting the ball on their outside hip. Players without the ball worked on fakes and backdoor cuts to start the 120-minute session.

Head coach John Beilein switched to a pure passing drill next. Teams of five were forced to make 10 consecutive passes without dribbling or turning the ball over. Communication and cutting were musts, as players had to anticipate where teammates were going. Screens and fakes also came into play.

As always, the coaching staff worked baseline-to-baseline and sideline-to-sideline sprints between drills.

The squad then split into guards/forwards and centers. The big men drilled footwork and shuffling to draw charges before working on the dribble-drive or shot from seven-to-12 feet.

The guards and forwards battled one-on-one to score. Mike Gansey looked especially difficult to defend as his quick dribble-drives and pull-up jumpers kept defenders off-balance. The forward's showcase of basic basketball tools was untouched by other players, and when mixed with some athleticism made him the best individual scorer here.

West Virginia reverted to a familiar drill 45 minutes into practice. Three teams of five were chosen. Offenses started with the ball. If they did not score, the defense took the ball down the floor, where the third set of five played defense. When the third five made a stop, they got the ball and headed back up the floor to face the original offense – which was now on defense.

It's a great drill to mix all skills and keep legs very fresh while emphasizing the fast break. Teams were: Kevin Pittsnogle, Patrick Beilein, Darris Nichols, Brad Byerson and Frank Young versus D'or Fischer, Tyrone Sally, Jarmon Durisseau-Collins, Joe Herber and Gansey. The third five was Ted Talkington, Robert Summers, Duriel Price, Luke Bonner and Nick Patella.

Twice during the drill players were straddling the line when taking the ball out-of-bounds after a score. It's great to hustle the ball up the floor, but, as Beilein noted, straddling is a turnover.

The offender's team lost possession, and when it happened twice more the teams lined up for 30-second "gut busters:" Base-line to foul line and back, then to half court and back, and repeat down the other side of the court. Players then had to run baseline-to-baseline in 21 seconds. The drill was repeated for every turnover committed when taking the ball out-of-bounds.

The next drill saw a guard, forward and center put against another same team of three. Teams worked for one quality shot, then switched to play defense. Afterward players broke to shoot free throws.

Next, the coaches plucked a pair of players to face-off. Basketballs were tossed beyond both players into the three-point area along the sideline. Players must locate the ball over their heads, make the catch, and then try to beat defenders to the basket. The drill mimicked outlet passes for quick scores on offensive transition.

Beilein then took 15 minutes to teach and work the 1-3-1 defense hands-on before finishing practice with a brief half-hour scrimmage.

The coaching staff placed two minutes on the clock and played from a 66-66 tie to make the scrimmage like late-game situations. After the initial session, two more minutes were put back on and teams played from a 76-76 tie. The blue team was Herber, Gansey, Sally, Fischer, and Collins. White was Pittsnogle, Bonner, Beilein, Nichols and Young. Other players shot free throws or were reserves.

WVU will get a chance to put all of these drills together on Monday, when the face Argentina in an exhibition game at the WVU Coliseum.

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