Built For Power

Joe Mazzulla looked in the mirror in the midst of preseason workouts and noticed not that he was too lean. In fact, the point guard noted a strange familiarity to his shape.

"I kind of looked more like a fullback than I did a point guard," said Muzzulla, WVU's sophomore who played with 185 pounds on his 6-2 frame last year, the same weight he was upon entering college. "I got to 215 pounds. I didn't feel too heavy. I just wanted to lean up. I wanted to look healthier than what I did. I haven't lost anything. I am just as quick as I used to be. I feel a lot stronger, and I'm now at 205 pounds."

Mazzulla, one of the more physical players and among the few who lifted weights during their prep days, remained at 185 throughout last season. One might consider it a back slide that the Rhode Island native failed to gain any added bulk under the former coaching staff. But with Mazzulla's history of strength training, he was already further developed musculoskeletally than fellow point player Darris Nichols, a then-junior two years his senior. Now, both are reasonably built and expected to man the floor at the same time, something that will be aided by the extra muscle because of the extra minutes.

"Joe is going to play until he is tired," first-year head coach Bob Huggins said. "Joe has been really good. There are the five or six guys who will play until they can't play any more. Joe is one of those guys."

When Huggins unleashed strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Giosi, Mazzulla immediately began to add to his solid size. He became larger throughout his entire build, and added what he considered about five to 10 pounds too much. He shaved that off, and will play between 205 and 210 pounds. He has kept his overall quickness, and has added experience after being named MVP of a summer league held in Pittsburgh in which Da'Sean Butler and Joe Alexander also played. Players from Pitt, Robert Morris and Cincinnati also participated.

"In the first couple of days, we though three hours was an eternity, all day," Mazzulla said. "In the last couple of days, we have been working harder and our bodies are getting used to it. It goes by like that. Our bodies and our mental state are getting used to it."

Mazzulla, like Nichols a left-hander, averaged three points and tallied 32 assists in 31 game appearances. He played an average of 8.7 minutes, a number expected to more than triple this season. His fundamental soundess and ability to create off drives and slashes compliments Nichols' outside shooting ability.

"The previous couple years, the point guard wanted to come down and set up in a two-guard offense and make sure everything runs smoothly," Mazzulla said. "Coach Huggins wants us to push it down the floor as fast as we can and look for any opening, if we have one or pass it to the wing and they have an opening. It's more a freestyle offense, which I think helps because Darris and I bring different aspects to the game. He is a terrific shooter and I am more of a penetrator. I use my dribble to make other players open. I think coach can see both of us on the floor at the same time. Darris and I are both learning the one and two, so we are interchangeable."

Huggins noted that his players really don't have set positions. The offense is all about recognizing mismatches and exploiting them in whatever way possible, while the defensive focus is on intensity and effort.

"Defensively, the will have somebody to guard," Huggins said. "But we don't really have positions. It is going to take awhile because there are so many reads involved. You have to learn to read screens, to set screens. We have to do a good job of spacing. We have made a lot of progress on defense and they pick up things quickly offensively. We have worked a good bit on defense. I know I sound redundant, but we have five or six guys who have picked up things pretty well and the rest of them are struggling. I think defensively we can go out there with those five or six guys and look pretty good."

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