Summer Schedule

Several West Virginia University recruiting targets and signees have been making a name for themselves on the track this spring, but none has been more successful that incoming point guard Joe Mazzulla.

The Bishop Hendricken product has been making a strong bid to defend the three state titles he won a year ago, and is just one meet away from pulling back-to-back doubles in the 4x100, 4x400 and 400-meter dashes. Most recently, Mazzulla took home three golds in the Rhode Island Class A championships, winning the 400 in 51.2 seconds and anchoring the 4x100 (44.7) and the 4x400 (3:38.7) relay teams. He'll now move on to the state championships, where he expects to defend the trio of titles.

"We had our whole team back for both of the relays, so I did expect us to have the chance to win them again," Mazzulla told BlueGoldNews.com.

The well-rounded athlete (he was also a youth soccer star before moving on to basketball and track) believes that much of his workout regiment for his track events carries over to the hardwood.

"Of course, doing my speed work helps a lot, and we also do a lot of plyometrics in our workouts. I think that carries over into basketball. And I still go to the gym every day and play ball as well with my high school friends," he said.

Mazzulla, who will likely be counted on to provide some backup minutes for Darris Nichols at the point this winter, isn't sure what's in store for him at WVU. However, he has his summer schedule set to go, and is starting to think about the next stage of his athletic career.

"I haven't been down to West Virginia since the opening game of the basketball season, so I am excited to get back down," he said. "I'll be going down to help at the basketball camp on June 29th, and after that we'll have a couple of days off before starting school (July 3). I got my schedule the other day, and I am taking three classes. I don't know what it's going to be like but I'm very excited to go."

Mazzulla plans to treat the camp and the summer session as another audition for WVU's coaching staff, which will surely be keeping a close eye on all the freshmen as they look for players who can help immediately in the rebuilding of the roster. The loss of the "big five" seniors from the 2005-06 team leaves plenty of opportunities for playing time in 2006-07.

"I'm sure they will be watching, because they wanted all of us to be down there for the camp," Mazzulla said. "I will take that like I have to prove myself all over again."

While each individual will be trying to garner early notice and making a case to avoid a redshirt, they will also be faced with the challenge of coming together as a team. Each of the incoming freshmen will have to get to know each other, and will also have to figure out how to meld with the returning players on the roster in order to form the kind of cohesive unit that is critical to the success of the John Beilein system.

Point guards, as the leaders of the offense, naturally become team leaders as well, so it's good to hear that Mazzulla has already thought about the issue of getting the disparate group of newcomers working together.

"It will be different, but we will be living with each other every day -- working out, practicing, lifting, everything. It will be pretty much 24x7. As time goes on we will grow together as a team, and that's important. That's why WVU has been so successful."

NOTES

Mazzulla became a better shooter this year as a result of a great deal of hard work.

"I worked a lot more on my shooting, and it became more consistent," Mazzulla said. "I did feel like I needed to help my team and put them on my shoulders a little more, because we lost eight players from last year. That was my biggest weakness and I knew I had to work on that. I feel much more comfortable from the three-point line now."

Mazzulla demonstrated his improvement by hitting a fifteen-foot jumper with five seconds to go to wrap up Hendricken's third consecutive state championship earlier this year.

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Mazzulla is suffering no lasting effects from a car accident earlier this spring that left him battered and bruised. MRIs to his knee showed no internal damage to a knee that was banged up in the incident, although it did cause him to miss one game of the state playoffs.

* * *

Mazzulla admitted that the last round of the John Beilein coaching carousel caused some nervousness on his part.

"That last one about N.C. State – I was ready to go to," he admitted. "He is such a big part of the success at West Virginia, and I wanted to be a part of that. When he talked to me afterward, he gave me his word that he was going to be there."

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