Learning Curve

No matter how many offenses he has to learn, West Virginia point guard Darris Nichols seems to be on top of the action.

Assimilate John Beilein's intricate read, react and cut style? No problem. Nichols recorded 165 assists against just 48 turnovers as a junior. Learn an offense in less than a week for a prestigious international competition? A snap. Nichols had 12 assists against just one turnover after two games in the Jones Cup. Learn yet another system for his senior season in college? Bring it on – Nichols has no qualms about his ability to learn Bob Huggins up-tempo scheme.

"It really hasn't been that hard," Nichols told BlueGoldNews.com before departing with his Athletes In Action teammates for Taiwan and the Jones Cup tournament. "Coach Jarvis and the other coaches did a good job in teaching us the offense. It has a different structure, but they kept it simpler because we didn't have a lot of time to learn it.

"The challenge might come when we are playing in the tournament, because we'll probably make adjustments for each team we play. But I can run any system. I understand the game"

With next to no scouting reports and non-existent preparation time before each game in the jam-packed schedule (the U.S. squad plays nine games in XX days), there's even more pressure than normal on the point guards. They have to adjust to different defenses and make changes on the fly, and all the while keep an ever-changing lineup involved on the offensive end. Those are skills that Nichols has demonstrated without fail, no matter what the circumstances.

"There are a lot of different players, and they mix us up a lot," Nichols noted. "It's been good to have [teammate Alex] Ruoff here, because we have worked together in the past. But all of my teammates have been good, and Alex and I haven't played together a lot. There are a lot of different rotations, so I have been out there with a lot of different people."

Nichols nearly didn't make the trip with the U.S. team, but in the end decided that the experience would be a good one. He wasn't concerned with burnout (he also took an overseas trip two years ago), but just wasn't sure if he wanted to make the commitment. Once he began practice with the team, however, he realized he had made the right choice.

"Most importantly, this is a mission trip. It's a chance to grow stronger spiritually and profess my faith," he said. "It's also a chance to get better and grow, both on and off the court. It has been a great experience."

When Nichols returns to the U.S., he will, as noted previously, begin working to learn Bob Huggins offense. With quiet confidence and a zest for the game, he'll likely put that task into the "completed" file in short order. However, there is one factor about the upcoming season that he's still dealing with.

"I am just starting to get used to the fact that this will be my last season," said the rising senior, whose career has featured NCAA Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearances along with an NIT championship. "It seems like my career has gone by so fast. I haven't had the chance to talk with Coach Huggins much yet, but I am really ready to get started. I'll take a little break after this trip, but then we'll get stated working right when school starts."

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