Areas of Benefit

Junior Alex Ruoff believes he will benefit in many different ways from his just underway trip to Taiwan for the Athletes In Action Jones Cup Team.

"I'm think I'm going to get a lot out of this trip," Ruoff told BlueGold after he wrapped up practice for the event in Xenia, Ohio. "Of course, the basketball experience is going to be great, but spiritually it should be an excellent experience for us too. We'll have the chance to share our experiences and do outreach in a place where Christianity isn't the dominant form or religion. That will be a very different experience, and one that I'm looking forward to."

During the trip, basketball won't be the only focus. Ruoff noted that the team has scheduled visits to an orphange and other sites around the city, and that they will do their best to share their message of faith.

"A lot of it will be by example," said Ruoff, who is refreshingly plain-spoken. "We will try to show our faith by our actions as well as by our words. It's easier with the kids. We've done the same thing here at home, and I am able to connect with them pretty well."

Ruoff, along with backcourt mate Darris Nichols, were targeted for the trip some time ago by AIA head coach Mike Jarvis and his staff.

"They contacted us during the season and told us they were watching us," said Ruoff, who likened the process to the college recruiting scene. "I thought I was done with that, but they recruited us pretty hard. I'm glad to be going."

On the basketball side, the week-long practice sessions haven't been overly complex.

"With the short camp here, we haven't been doing a whole lot. We've learned about 10-15 plays, and we're keeping it kind of basic. We'll adjust some during the tournament, but it's not overwhelming.

"I thnk that if you can learn Coach Beilein's system, you can pretty much learn anything," said Ruoff of the process of assimilating new systems. "I don't think it's that difficult to learn new things. I am anxious to learn Coach Huggins' system, but I think I will be able to do that."

And of the concerns that West Virginia's current team was recruited to fit Beilein's style, and thus will automatically struggle in Huggins'? Ruoff, who has never hesitated to speak his mind, almost scoffs at the notion.

"I do disagree with that. We were kind of labeled as ‘chemistry' players, that only fit Coach Beilein's style, and that bothers me some. I use that as motivation. And look at last year. We showed coming down the stretch in the NIT that we had guys who could make the big one-on-one plays when it counted; when we were under pressure. Sometimes I don't think we get enough credit for that. I'm looking forward to proving it wrong. I think that by the first game of the year, people will see that we can play a different style, and that we're capable of being successful."

Ruoff's determination to prove he's not just a standstill jumpshooter (coupled with many of his teammates') speaks well of the mindset with which the Mountaineers are approaching the upcoming season. While there might not be many 40-inch vertical leaps on the team, everyone is determined to show that it's the players, as much as if not more the system, that has accounted for WVU's shining success on the hardwood over the past three seasons. Part of that has been channeled into rigorous offseason workouts, which have focused on adding strength and mass to the Mountaineers' frames.

With that work, which has been a success to date, comes the concern of affect on shooting and other basketball relevant motions. Ruoff, howeve,r notes that there is a recipe to avoid the fears of being "muscle-bound" that can change the shooting form and accuracy of those who gain mass.

"It can affect you if you aren't responsible in the way you lift and work," said Ruoff, who has followed a diligent plan since Huggins came aboard and implemented the new lifting scheme. "If you shoot right after you lift, and make sure you keep shooting with the same form, you won't be affected. I shoot a lot right after lifting, and I haven't seen any changes."

The thought is to keep newly-strengthened arms, legs and torsos in sync with the shooting motion that has become ingrained over the years, and thus make a natural progression of the entire process. By mixing shooting and the ever-important flexibility drills in with strength work, Ruoff believes that added muscle and tone won't affect his smooth shooting stroke.

The question of workload is also one of interest. West Virginia played later into the season than all but four other teams, and the Mountaineers have also dived into summer play as well. While Ruoff and Nichols venture overseas, their teammates have been playing in Pittsburgh summer league. Add in grueling workouts, pickup play and what promises to be an intense preseason practice schedule, and the possibility of burnout looms. For Ruoff, a noted gym rat, that won't be a problem.

"It's not in my nature to rest a lot, but we'll see if it causes nay problems," said Ruoff, who carries about as much body fat as Lindsay Lohan after a three-week bender. "We'll get a week off after we come back from this trip, so that should be enough.

"Really, I'm anxious to get started with the upcoming season. My career is one-half over now, and with the new system and new coach, I know the clock is running. I'm really ready to get started."

The Jones Cup team departed the U.S. for Taipei, Taiwan, today. The squad plays its first game on July 2.

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