Basketball Walkon Battled For A Shot At Division 1

Mountaineer men's basketball walkon Phillip Crum thought his luck couldn't get any worse when Dan Dakich made like The Pretenders and went back to Ohio.

Crum, who was a standout performer for George Washington High School in Charleston, W. Va. during the 2000-2001 season, didn't get much attention from Division 1 schools after a senior season that included a berth on the AAA All Tournament Team.

So, Crum (6-2, 175 lbs.) packed his bags for Hargrave Military Academy and a year in their post graduate program, where he figured to get the competition and exposure he needed.

"It was the best competition I ever played against in my life," Crum told "We played some of the top schools in the country, and I played against guys who are going to the SEC, the ACC, the Big East...really good players."

After last season, Crum was again largely overlooked by Division 1 schools. He had some interest from lower division schools, but he still wanted to see how he stacked up against top flight competition.

With the help of his ex-high school coach, Rick Greene, Crum made contact with several schools, including WVU. At the time, the Mountaineers were going through the coaching transition from Gale Catlett to Drew Catlett to Dan Dakich, so there were some nerve wracking days before Dakich gave his approval to walk on at West Virginia.

"It was pretty crazy," Crum remmebers of that time. "Coach Dakich told us he'd call us back, and it took a while, but finally he did."

After an extra season of basketball and numerous hours of work, Crum finally had secured his chance. And then it happened. Dakich bailed.

"I remember thinking that my luck just couldn't get any worse," Crum remembered. "After all this, I was back where I started."

However, in another angle to the good fortune that brought John Beilein to WVU, Crum was able to again latch on to his dream.

"I already had a little connection with Coach Beilein, since Patrick O'Malley (Crum's former teammate at George Washington)went to Richmond. So, we got on the phone again, and Coach Beilein said I could still walk on this year."

After more than a few twists and turns, then, Crum is ready to walk on this fall. He's already acquainted with a couple of players on the team -- fellow walk ons Nick Patella of Elkins and Patrick Beilein, the coach's son. Crum played with both Patella and Beilein over the summer, and plans to room with Crum when he heads to the WVU campus this weekend.

Crum is realistic about his chances of making an immediate impact, but is determined not to be overwhelmed by the talent he'll see in the conference.

"I can't be scared of these guys just because I've seen them on TV," Crum said of the competition he'll face. "I played against some great players last year, so I can't be intimidated.

"I know I may not make a big impact this year, but I know my role. I believe that I can work hard, and then a year or two down the road I can contribute. Coach Beilein's system needs smart players, and guys who can make the right decisions, and that fits in well with my style of play."

Crum played both guard positions at Hargrave, but knows he'll probably have to play the point at WVU. To prepare for his shot at Division 1, Crum has been working out at his old high school.

"I've got a key to the gym and the weight room, so I've been lifting and working on my shooting. I'm ready to go and get started."

If some of Crum's enthusiasm and work ethic rubs off on his teammates, WVU just might rebuild a bit more quickly than many people anticipate.

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