Early Decision

Poca High School's Noah Cottrill isn't the first sophomore basketballer in the country to make a verbal commitment, but the rising West Virginia star says that he isn't worried about the perception that he rushed his choice when he committed to the home state Mountaineers.

"I know a lot of people will say I am too young, but when your heart tells you that you are in love with a place, you have to follow it. That's all it takes. West Virginia is home, and that's where I want to be. I've been everywhere. Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, you name it, but [West Virginia] is where I want to be."

That home state feeling was obviously enhanced by head coach Bob Huggins, who recently made a return home of his own to coach the Mountaineers.

"I have a great relationship with Coach Huggins," Cottrill said. "I see him as a coach and I also see him as a friend. Whenever I see him, he will greet me with a handshake and a hug. He is easy to talk to, and he is a great guy. That's all I need to know.

"I love what they have," Cottrill continued as he listed off the reasons for his decision. "They are going to have new facilities. It's home, my family can see me. The coaches are easy to talk to. They feel like my own people. It is really something special."

Cottrill also admitted that the more aggressive style of game that Huggins espouses was a factor in his choice.

"Coach Beilein's style was a great style, but Huggins is a little different. It's hard nosed, defense, running the floor, and that's more my style. I like to make plays, and he told me how he is going to play. I really like to run the court and push and fast break and play hard. I love making a great pass too. I'd rather make a pass than a game-winning three-pointer."

Cottrill seems perfectly suited for the up-tempo pace that Huggins teaches, but one place that he didn't like that sort of speed and activity was in the recruiting game.

"It was getting kind of hectic," said Cottrill, who was receiving offers and attention from major schools across the country despite the fact that he is just entering his sophomore season. "My high school coach is getting four or five calls per day. All that attention was flattering at first. When you get your first letter from a school, it's impressive, but after a while when all these coaches are pressing you – you feel like they are pressuring you. I liked the attention, but when a coach pressures me, I feel like he's not real. That's something Coach Huggins never did, and I like that about [West Virginia's staff].

"It just hit me all at once," he said of the realization that it was time to make his early decision. I've been there and I love the coaching staff, the people and the players. This is the place I need to be."

Cottrill has been around great players throughout his basketball development. Older brother Ricky plays collegiately at Eastern Michigan, and he has been on AAU teams that travel the country. Even pickup games in his home area were populated with great talent.

"When I was in the seventh grade I was playing in open gyms with Patrick Patterson, O.J. Mayo, Chris Early, and guys like that. A coach from Florida saw me at one of those, and the recruiting really began then."

Even though he held his own at such sessions, and consistently played above hi age group in AAU competition, Cottrill doesn't think he has it made.

"I'm never satisfied, so I don't know if I can play on that level yet," he said when asked when he knew that he could play at the highest levels of Division I. "I need to be stronger. You have to be hard-nosed and tough to play there. I will be in the weight room. I have the mental toughness, now I need the physical toughness."


Cottrill next embarks on a summer schedule that would make Clark Griswald dizzy.

"I'll be going to Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Las Vegas and California for AAU. I love doing it. I love the travel and meeting new people. Maybe if I never played basketball, I'd never get to see those places. I really enjoy it."

* * *

For those concerned that Cottrill made his decision just to avoid the recruiting rat race (something that might slow, but won't disappear despite his announcement), he has a message.

"Making the decision isn't about ending the phone calls. It's about going to where I want to be."

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