Like the five of six he drilled from behind the three-point line in West Virginia's 71-60 win over North Carolina State in Charleston on Wednesday. Ruoff routinely hit the threes from the wing, where he appears most comfortable. After averaging one point last year, Ruoff has set career highs in three consecutive games with 11, 12 and 15 points, respectively, and is eight of 15 from three-point range in the span after being six of 15 in his career through last season. The Spring Hill, Fla. native set two of those career highs in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando in front of many family members, and accounted for nearly half of WVU's 13 three-pointers as it shot 46 percent from behind the arc to, ironically, just 39 percent from the floor (24 for 61).
It's not simply the nine points per game – fourth on the team – though. Ruoff has a 29-to-11 assist-to-turnover ration bettered only by point guard Darris Nichols' 32-to-7. He has a team-high 20 steals and has harassed foes on the wing of the 1-3-1 zone. More surprisingly, he has played the most minutes (30.1) of anybody on the team save Nichols' 31.0. That's a sign of trust by head coach John Beilein, who embraced Herber's persona and play more than perhaps any other player. Beilein has similar confidence in Ruof, while realizing that the 6-6, 210-pounder has a varying skill set than Herber.
"Herber had all that international experience as well," Beilein said. "He had controlled the ball, played the point, in international competition. Al is not as experienced, and he only played in smaller doses last season. But we like what he can do. Al can be a good player."
The other differences are the attitudes. Herber's scholarly bent and his game focus belied that of arguably the finest in WVU history. He was seldom without a book and would attempt the engagement of teammates in discussions of international politics, often to be greeted with a yawn and a head nod off to sleep. Ruoff is more of a typical collegian. He has a brashness to his game and floor prescience unthinkable by Herber. After canning a three, he gave a nod and a pointed a finger at a fan who yelled "Shoot it!" right before he pulled the trigger. "Thank ya!" the fan answered. The series was repeated a second time in the game.
Ruoff took the microphone from two seniors and a junior in front of the press at the Old Spice Classic after forward Frank Young went off for nine quick points as West Virginia built a 44-11 halftime lead one game after Young, a fellow Floridian, ripped Montana for 21 points on five threes. "Why are we so good early?" he said. "Because Frank Young doesn't miss in the first five minutes of games." That might not seem much, but here was a sophomore who hadn't done much taking the mike from a heady point guard, a player who just score more than 30 points and a senior center.
He doesn't lack for confidence. His deep range from behind the arc are better than that of Herber, but he can't play multiple positions like Herber did. He won't handle the point, and he is not as physically into games, Herber having thrown his body around in a series of both bodying up and flop moves. At one point, Herber was called the biggest flopper in the Big East by officials when WVU asked what it could do to improve itself in their eyes. Instead, Ruoff couples solid quickness with steady defense and a penchant for knowing when to pop and when to pass. He has a feel for the game on both ends that is comparable. And, if he continues to develop, has the potential to become a Herber because of his understanding.