Increasing Workload

Freshman guard Devan Bawinkel got his first taste of collegiate action in West Virginia's scrimmage game against Fairmont State on Sunday, but that was just one more milestone on what has already been an action-packed start to his college career.

Bawinkel, like every freshman, had to adjust to the much more frenetic and packed schedule of college as opposed to high school. And just when he felt like he was getting a handle on the increased academic demands and workout schedules, another 20 hours per week were added on to the slate. And that didn't even include games.

"The biggest thing was getting used to the schedule," said the Illinois native. "You have to manage your time. You have to be ready and be prepared to play all the time. You go from weights to agilities to conditioning to workouts, so you are always busy. It's just a matter of being on time and being prepared."

An excellent student, Bawinkel was prepared for the rigors of college work, and like many of his teammates took a handful of classes during the second semester of summer school. That allowed him to get used to college level work without getting overloaded, and also learn to balance the demands of workouts with classwork. However, the summer schedule was but an introduction to that of the fall, when a full courseload as well as 20 additional hours of basketball per week were added to his weekly grind. However, the sharpshooting guard viewed the increase in workload philosophically.

"It seems like a lot, but we have a lot of motivation, too," said Bawinkel, who is currently the backup to Alex Ruoff at the two guard slot. "That's what we are here for, and we'll get through it. It's something we looked forward to over the summer."

Like every freshman that comes under the structured hand of the Beilein system, Bawinkel was a bit surprised at the starting point of basketball practice. While many might envision a crash course in offensive and defensive sets, Beilein begins every year with the basics – at what might appear to be an elementary school level. Catching the ball. How to position the feet correctly. Balance. Holding the ball with the seams. All things that should be second nature, but that are often overlooked in today's game.

"It was a little bit surprising," Bawinkel admitted of the remedial work. "But I know he wants us to work on the fundamentals and start at the beginning. That's just to help us to get where we need to be."

The journey to that destination will be a long one. When asked to compare where the Mountaineer team is currently if it were a painting, Beilein quipped, "We're just now mixing the paint." However, in his view, a masterpiece can't be constructed with a shaky foundation, or, to continue the metaphor, if the colors of the paint aren't mixed correctly. That's why he starts his youngsters off at the very bottom, and why they often turn out to be highly skilled players by the time they are seniors.

Bawinkel and his callow teammates seem to understand that plan, and are buying in to the approach taken by the master teacher. In that process, they also have the help of the veterans, who are doing all they can to make the transition to college as smooth as possible.

"[Getting along with the veterans] has been easy," Bawinkel noted. "They have taken us under their wings, and they don't hold any grudges because we are young. We came right in and they took us in right away. It's been nice to have that."

That support has no doubt been a big help to Bawinkel and the rest of the freshmen as they battle through the ever-increasing workload put upon first-year players adjusting to college life. So far, the transition has probably been as smooth as could be expected. And while a number of bumps in the road likely lie ahead for this class, it also seems well-equipped to learn from them and become seasoned veterans in a short amount of possible.

One of the best reasons for that is the fact that the newcomers don't appear to have much in the way of ego or aspirations to become stars. When asked about his best trait, Bawinkel didn't mention his shot or scoring ability.

"I am a team player," he said. "I will do anything I need to do to help the team win."

Music, no doubt, to Beilein's ears, and an outlook that will certainly help the young freshman deal with the many challenges he will face during his career.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories