A Whole New Level

As he wraps up his first semester of experience in college, freshman Joe Alexander is being exposed to an entirely different level of basketball.

Alexander, who came to West Virginia after a season at Hargrave Military Academy, might have thought he would be prepared for the rigors of college. After all, life at a military academy, even for an athlete, isn't tea and crumpets. But after taking classes and working out during WVU's second semester of summer school, the Mount Airy, Md., native says he is ready for a break.

"The biggest difference is in how hard we lift," Alexander said during his final week of the summer session. "It's just exhausting. There's no comparison to anything I've done before. And that's just the lifting, because we aren't playing any games or anything like that. There are only five of us here right now (fellow freshman Alex Ruoff, Mike Gansey, Kevin Pittsnogle and Pat Beilein are the others in town), so we aren't playing much. We might do a little two-on-two, but most of it is lifting and individual work."

Although many people are enjoying a summer vacation or just kicking back, Alexander's routine is busier than anything he's experienced before. And this is without the full practice schedule that he'll encounter when he returns to WVU next month.

"I have a class in the morning, and then workouts after that," Alexander detailed. "We lift on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we do agility and conditioning drills. Then I have an afternoon class, and following that we do individual skill work. We also have shootarounds in there too."

If that sounds like a full schedule, well, there's more to come this fall. Practice, film study, meetings and more classes await Alexander and Ruoff, but in the meantime, the summer session has provided them with a nice head start.

"The biggest thing is that I've learned my way around," Alexander said of the advantages of getting a couple of classes under his belt. "I've figured out where things are, so that's something I don't have to worry about this fall."

Alexander is something of an unknown quantity for many Mountaineer fans, owing to the fact that his playing time at Hargrave was limited. Not due to any shortcomings on his part, understand, but due to the talented roster. Thirteen players from last year's roster will continue their careers at the college level – 11 at Division I schools.

"We had a lot of good players, and so we split a lot of time," the 6-8 forward observed. "Our practices were a lot more intense, and had better competition, than most of our games. We had a lot of players go on to Division I schools.

"Not playing as much was frustrating for me," he continued, "especially when I was used to playing the whole game in high school."

Alexander went to Hargrave for a year of additional basketball experience after graduating from Linganore High School, where he was a first team all-conference selection and lead his team to the 3A state semifinals. He averaged 14.5 points and seven rebounds per game as a senior, but decided to spend a year in prep school to broaden his basketball options. There, he worked hard to improve his game, and eventually attracted an offer from West Virginia, which he quickly accepted.

Now that Alexander has gotten a taste of what life will be like for the next four years, he's ready to begin working with the rest of his teammates and get his freshman season underway. After completing the summer season on Friday, Alexander will return home for a month, then reverse the trip and head back over I-68 in August.

"I think the biggest challenge for me will be to learn the system," he said of WVU's intricate and varied offensive sets. "We haven't watched any tape yet, so that's something I will have to do a lot of to get ready."

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