Comeback Hobbled

Although he would never use it as an excuse, Frank Young's leg cramps in the second half of the Mountaineers' 60-47 loss to Pitt certainly had an negative effect on his play. Strangely enough, he also played his best stretch of the game as he battled the painful malady.

Young, who has suffered from cramps in his lower legs at various times throughout his career, saw the simple, yet painful condition reoccur in Wednesday night's contest. Following a lay-up by Pitt's Sam Young that put the Panthers ahead by 13 at 37-24 at the 13:59 mark, Young collapsed to the floor with his left calf muscle knotted tighter than the lids that seemed to be covering the Mountaineer baskets. After a couple of minutes, he was able to walk to the bench, where he remained for the next 2:30 while the Panthers built their lead to 15.

At that point, he returned to the game, and proceeded to have his finest stretch of the night on the offensive end. He hit a three-pointer to draw WVU to within 11, converted a lay-up to cut it to four, then snared an offensive rebound for a put back attempt on which he was fouled. At that point, however, the effects of the cramps made themselves known. Using a slightly modified stance to minimize the pain, Young missed both free throws, and after a pair of rainbow foul shots by Pitt's Aaron Gray, it was all over but the shouting.

Young, showing the characteristics that have made him the leader of this team, refused to blame the cramps for the misses, even though his stance was certainly different from the one he normally uses.

"I kind of felt it on the second one," he said of the misfires. "My calves were a little stiff, but I can't blame it on that. I just have to knock those free throws down."

That Young feels that way is a testament to his character, but it was obvious that the senior forward was bothered at times by the cramps. Although head coach John Beilein rightfully noted that Young played his best basketball after being felled by the big cramp, it's just as certain that the condition severely restricted his motion. It was especially noticeable on defense, where Young was forced to cover a lot of ground, whether on the wing of the 1-3-1 or in man-to-man.

"It was really affecting me on defense when I tried to get in my stance or shuffle," said Young, whose stiff-legged gait was plain to see. "When I would bend my knees, I could feel it in my calves. I just tried to have a high tolerance for pain and play through it."

That he did, because neither he nor head coach John Beilein had any intention of taking him out of the game.

"We had to have him in there," Beilein said. "I wasn't satisfied with what our big lineup was giving us, and so we went small. And with the injuries to Joe Mazzulla and Devan Bawinkel, we didn't have many options."

"You would have to take me out," Young said when asked if he would consider pulling himself off the floor. "I would never ask to come out."

So, with sitting down never an option, Young gutted out a difficult final 11 minutes of the game, leaving only in the final 30 seconds after matters were decided. Without his contributions, West Virginia would never have been able to put together its final run, but there's also no doubt that he wasn't at peak efficiency. That's not a criticism either; as he truly gave everything he had to help his team get back into the contest.

The issue now is getting Young to a point where the cramps won't be a problem. Both he and his coach noted they had not been an issue this year, but coming down through the most difficult stretch of the season, fatigue could be playing a factor. Young has a plan to combat the problem, but he isn't sure what caused the cramps to flare up at the most inopportune of times.

"I just have to try to get more electrolytes before the game, and maybe try to stretch more. I stretched a lot before the game and had the strength coach (Jeff Giosi) stretch me out. I will talk to him and try to figure out why it came back. It hasn't bothered me much this year like it did last year, so I don't know what exactly happened."

Once cramps appear, it is difficult to prevent a reoccurrence until activity is ceased and more fluids that include sodium and potassium are put into the body.

" It's pretty hard to shake the cramps unless you have the time to get an IV or something like that," Young confirmed. "You try to get electrolytes and stretch, but they are pretty much going to stay with you the rest of the game."

With a short bench and more critical games looming, West Virginia has to have a healthy Frank Young to make its NCAA dreams a reality. WVU hasn't had any bad injury runs under Beilein, but with two guards out and a primary shooter hobbled, the Mountaineers are facing their worst health situation of the Beilein era. Young, along with the training and strength staffs, must address this problem so that it won't be a factor in future contests.


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