Not Done Yet

If you look at the season statistics for the Mountaineer men's basketball team, you'll see Frank Young's name near the top of just about every category. While Young's statistics and on-court play are good enough to earn him constant attention from opposing defenses, there are many other attributes that make him the most valuable member of John Beilein's fifth team at West Virginia.

There's no question that Young – who along with starting center Rob Summers is one of just two seniors on the roster – is the leader of this squad. He's been through the battles for the past four years, and has seen just as many disappointments as he has successes. So when it became evident that the Mountaineers weren't going to be dancing into the NCAA Tournament, it was Young – as well as Summers and junior point guard Darris Nichols – whom Beilein called on to pick up their melancholy teammates. And while the initial disappointment of not making the Big Dance was strong, Young wasn't about to let it hang around any longer than the roughly two-hour gap between the announcement of the NCAA field and the NIT.

"Everybody had a positive attitude (at Monday's practice)," said the senior marketing major. "Nobody is sulking about not getting to play in the NCAA Tournament. I think we're taking on the opportunity to play in the NIT with a positive attitude. We're ready to play. Some teams that have a winning record aren't playing, because the NIT committee still had to select their teams."

No, there won't be a road trip to a big arena in an unfamiliar location this week or any of the other pomp and circumstance that goes along with being selected to college basketball's biggest event. The Mountaineers won't have a chance to make their third consecutive run into the second weekend of the tournament, at least not on a stage equal of that which they've been on the past two seasons. There won't be "One Shining Moment" highlights that feature the familiar faces of these Mountaineers. But at the end of the day, they're still playing basketball. They still have a chance to win their final game, which is something that only two teams can say at season's end.

"We're going to go out there and play hard because our next game could be our last game," said the level-headed Young. "We just have to go out there with the mentality that we can beat anybody as long as we play our game.

The Mountaineers earned a top seed in the East region of the NIT, which will give them home court advantage for three games should they advance that far. If they were to defeat Delaware State tonight, and then win two more games, the Gold and Blue would find themselves in a familiar surrounding: the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and New York City, home of the NIT Final Four, as well as the Big East Championship which the Mountaineers competed in last week. That alone gives Young and his teammates plenty of motivation to play and play well beginning with tonight's game against the Hornets.

"The motivation is definitely there to try to win this tournament," he said. "We're in a national tournament that you have to be invited to. We're just happy to have this opportunity to make it back to the Garden."

Although teams from the MEAC normally don't strike fear in the hearts of opponents from power conferences, Young believes that the Hornets will bring their A-game to Morgantown. Greg Jackson's team is battle tested, having faced the likes of Wisconsin, Pitt, Purdue, and Michigan on the road earlier this season in addition to their stellar in-conference play. While the caliber of athletes on their roster top to bottom aren't up to par with a team like Louisville or Georgetown, the Hornets do have some similarities to at least one Big East opponent, according to Young.

"They have a type of team that really spreads the floor, maybe like Villanova," he explained. "They do a lot of dribble penetration. They're not really an up-tempo team; they try to slow it down, unlike Villanova. They really spread the floor, and they really execute it well.

"We watched a little bit of film on them (Monday). They're a quick team, and they have a couple of shooters. They don't really have a big man like we're used to seeing in the Big East. Their center is like 6'6" or 6'7". He's going to be more of a mobile big man that is looking to rebound. We have to keep him off the boards because he has like 60 offensive rebounds. Sometimes with us, no matter the size of the team we struggle with rebounding. We'll definitely have to work on that."

Frankly (no pun intended), West Virginia's star forward is just happy to be playing for a fourth straight postseason. The Tallahassee, Fla. native is the lone remaining member of the 2004 squad which lost in the second round of the NIT at league foe Rutgers. A veteran of 117 games played, Young knows that each game from here on out could be his last as a Mountaineer. As a player, he's not ready for that yet. And as a leader, he's not about to let his teammates sulk about not getting an NCAA bid.

"I'm definitely excited for this. I wanted Senior Night to be my last home game, but I'm excited to play here for a couple more games and hopefully make it to the Garden again."

The first step towards one final Garden party for Frank Young begins tonight.

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