Power Forward Eyes WVU

One West Virginia recruiting target showcased his inside skill and soft touch at the Hoop Group JamFest in Morgantown on Saturday. One of just three players known to be offered by WVU, DeJuan Blair spoke with BlueGoldNews.com about West Virginia, his recruitment nationally, and when he plans on narrowing his list of schools.

Blair, playing for the Pittsburgh Jots AAU team in the Hoop Group JamFest, is a 6-7, 240 pounder at the four spot, which is the position of need for the Mountaineers. The most noticeable aspect of his play is the ability to move foes around inside with his weight and girth and his hands. Blair showed good interior passing, and finished well inside.

But since his knee surgeries, he seems to have a hard time getting up and down the floor, an indication that he has yet to get into game shape, especially cardiovascularly. His mobility is far less than 100 percent, and he is still wearing two knee braces. That, apparently, is not a concern for WVU head coach John Beilein, who has offered Blair as one of only three players with WVU scholarships in-hand should they choose the Mountaineers. (The others are Huntington native Patrick Patterson and the committed John Flowers, a 6-7, 210 pounder. Patterson and Blair rank eighth and 14th, respectively, at the slots).

Blair's upside is solid in that, should he regain full mobility, he can add to his hustling style. He works hard inside and he rebounds well for a 6-7 player (though, it should be noted, Blair is closer to 6-6). He won't be an outside shooter like many other Beilein recruits, but he is likely being offered as a strong interior force that can add to WVU's overall punch.

"Coach (John) Mahoney is really my connection to West Virginia," Blair said of WVU's Director of basketball Operations. "I have known him since he was at Duquesne. He got me interested in coming here, and he is sort of why I am looking at West Virginia."

Mahoney, a Burgettstown, Pa. native, was on former Duquesne head coach Danny Nee's staff for four years prior to coming to West Virginia. He also spent three seasons at Robert Morris, giving him many connections to upcoming players from Pittsburgh, which has been a hot bed of new interior talent in the last two seasons.

"I'm also looking at 17 or so other schools," Blair said. "But I don't really care about where they are or what style. I will play anything, from half court stuff to running and pressing. I'm interested in Florida and Wake Forest now, too, and Pitt because it is really close. But I like West Virginia. The campus was fine, the facilities were good, and it was good to play on the court at the Coliseum. But I'm not leaning anywhere. I'll wait until December to narrow my schools down more."

That will leave West Virginia without a commit for awhile, and, with just one scholarship remaining, it's likely WVU will wait on Patterson and Blair to commit somewhere before offering another player. The challenge is not to wait too long, because other schools are scooping up the interior talent the Mountaineers are vying for. Another problem for Beilein is that Blair has noted that he would like to play with fellow Pittsburgh JOT and Schenley High teammate D.J. Kennedy. Kennedy has not been offered by WVU, and said that West Virginia has not been in contact at all. He does have an offer from Xavier, and said he likes Boston College, Pitt, Kansas State and Wake Forest, among others.

Herb Pope, the Scout.com fifth-ranked power forward, also plays for the JOTS, who are, obviously, loaded inside. Pope said he has not ruled out West Virginia, but does not seem to be very interested in the Mountaineers. WVU has not offered Pope, who shows some laziness and cockiness on the floor, but who has immense talent and great reach. Pope has offers from Kansas State, Louisville, Pitt, Memphis and Cincinnati, and said that he only wanted to play a fast, run-and-gun style, the antithesis of Beilein's style.

"I just want to get up and down the floor, not a lot of set offenses," Pope said. "I really like Pitt and Kansas State, but there are a lot of schools right now. I am not narrowing anything yet. I'm still looking at everyone and waiting for any more offers."

Former WVU player and current Kansas State head coach Bob Huggins and Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon, among others, watched the JOTS easily defeat New Hampshire 89-50 in a game called four minutes early due to the mercy rule. There were also coaches from Tennessee in attendance.


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