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West Virginia's duo at the center position travelled the transfer route to help WVU win its first NIT championship in 65 years.

O.K., so Rob Summers and Jamie Smalligan probably aren't going to make it onto anyone's all-time WVU team list. But the pair, who transferred to West Virginia after finding themselves in less than desireable situations at their former schools, formed a solid duo that played a big role in West Virginia's NIT championship-winning season. Each has skills the other lacks, but complemented each other quite nicely as the Mountaineers defeated Clemson for the title in Madison Square Garden.

Combined, the pair averaged 9.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest, with each scoring in different ways. Smalligan, who made 31 of his 68 three-point attempts, led the team with a 45.6% shooting mark from beyond the arc, which accounted for 93 of his 96 points. Summers ecxelled at rolling off picks and screens he set to take passes for short shots, scoring all 138 of his points from the field from inside the line. Defensively, each contributed in his own way, with Smalligan bumping and banging while Summers blocked 31 shots. Again, those aren't all-star numbers, but were solid contributions to a team that needed more productivity from its center position.

"Since we split minutes, we don't each put up a lot of big numbers," Smalligan said in the locker room glow after defeating Clemson for the NIT crown. "We don't think about our stats a lot, but when we do, we look at them combined, with both of us in there."

The duo jelled quite nicely this year, and perhaps their respective paths to West Virginia had a lot to do with that. Both transferred from other schools (Summers from Penn State, Smalligan from Butler), where things just weren't adding up for either player. Summers wanted the chance to contribute to a winning program, while Smalligan's style didn't fit the Butler system.

Jamie Smalligan
"I was just hoping to go to post-season play," Summers said, with the net from the Clemson game still draped around his neck. "At Penn State, we never made it there, and I thought West Virginia had it in them. "We went to the [NCAA] tourney two years (the first while Summers sat out his transfer season) and this year we win the NIT - it's just been crazy."

Smalligan, whose perimeter shooting didn't mesh with the Bulldogs' plans, likewise found a much better fit for his talent set with the Mountaineers.

"I just wanted to come here," he said. "I knew it would be a lot of hard work, but I wanted to win, and that's exactly what we did. Twenty-seven wins and the NIT championship."

Unfortunately, the pair gets broken up next year, as Summers graduates and pursues playing opportunities elsewhere, but Smalligan still has one more go-round left. Like Summers, he missed participating in an NCAA tournament due to his transfer sit-out (although he did travel to West Virginia's first-round site on his own money to cheer on his teammates), and wants to cap his Mountaineer career with a visit to the big tournament.

"I have one year left to make it to the NCAAs, and after the lasting impact that Frank Young and Rob are going to leave on this team, I think there's no doubt we'll be able to make it there next year," he said.

The chances for that obviously look good, but the Mountaineers will have to figure out a way to duplicate the synergy produced by Summers and Smalligan this year that helped them march through the NIT.

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