Getting the Point

Saturday's win over UCLA highlighted a lot of good things about the Mountaineer basketball team. One of these was the play of sophomore point guard Darris Nichols.

When starting point guard J.D. Collins was saddled early in the game with foul trouble, Nichols had no choice but to play heavy minutes for John Beilein's team. For Nichols it wasn't an unfamiliar situation.

"There weren't any nerves because the same thing happened to me last year during the Wake Forest game," said the Radford, Va. native. "That was in the (NCAA) tournament, and that got me ready for the same thing this season."

Early in the season it would have been fair to say that Nichols was struggling during his time on the court. It wasn't that he was doing anything drastically different than he did a year ago. It was just taking some time for Nichols to grow into his role on this year's Mountaineer squad.

Things started to change a couple of weeks ago during West Virginia's home win over the Georgetown Hoyas. Nichols looked more assertive, and more aggressive in that game, and in each game since has improved his play.

"Coach has been telling me all year to be more aggressive. I've started to do that and I think that it's helping make our team a lot better. The system is hard, and it takes a while to get used to it but I think I'm starting to settle in," he says.

Beilein hasn't merely been asking for Nichols to be more aggressive when he's in the game. The fourth year head coach has practically been begging his sophomore to look for his shot and go to the basket.

"Every day, every hour, every minute," said Beilein when asked just how often he's told Nichols to assert himself.

After Saturday's win at UCLA, Beilein was impressed with the way his young guard had played.

"He comes into a game in Pauley Pavilion and has zero turnovers," said the glowing head coach. "He was taking the ball to the basket. He's slowly getting more comfortable with his role on the team. It's a long couple of years to play 15 minutes a game, but he's hanging in there."

"I can't go out there thinking about anything else but what I have to do," summed up Nichols.

For the Mountaineers to continue having success this season, Nichols will have to provide key depth off of the bench. If the past few games are any indication of things to come, he's ready to do just that.

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