Remember the tall, skinny kid who toiled on the end of West Virginia's bench during the 2005-06 Sweet Sixteen season? While the Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey were bombing their way to all-Big East seasons, Joe Alexander sat.
And then he sat, and continued to sit. And would you believe it? He even sat some more. In all, Alexander played in just 10 games for the Mountaineers, totaling 36 minutes of action as WVU traveled from Pauley Pavilion to Madison Square Garden and many points in between, coming within a whisker of a second consecutive Elite Eight appearance were it not for some last-second heroics by Texas guard Kenton Paulino.
Despite the lack of PT and abundance of pine time, Alexander still left Mountaineer fans far and wide ooh-ing and ahh-ing if only during pregame warmups, when he would routinely put on a high-flying dunk routine that was perhaps a sign of things to come from the raw but athletic rookie.
The next season, as a sophomore, Alexander was thrust into a starting role, playing more minutes combined in the first two games than he did during the entire 2005-06 season. Looking back, his averages of 10 points and four rebounds per game were more than respectable.
However, anyone who watched Alexander closely down the stretch last year could easily tell that he was not the same player who had been productive if not brilliant earlier in the season, peaking with a 23-point performance in a home win over DePaul at the Coliseum. Whereas points and productivity had been plentiful during the months of December, January and parts of February, Alexander's numbers down the stretch declined rapidly.
Over the summer, the rising junior added more than 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-8 frame. And with Huggins' history of developing post presences such as Danny Fortson, Kenyon Martin and Jason Maxiell, Alexander seemed to be the perfect project for the new head coach to work with in year one of his homecoming.
Needless to say, it has paid off. Alexander, no longer the wiry benchwarmer relegated to the pregame slam dunk show, has used the added bulk and Hall of Fame wisdom of Huggins to transform both his body and his game to a dominant state which in the past three outings has produced totals of 32, 32 and 29 points, respectively.
Unlike last season's slide, Alexander has saved his best for last. On Monday, the Big East tabbed him as the league's Player of the Week. Too, and certainly more of a tribute to the body of work he has put together over the course of the season, he is now WVU's fourth first team all-conference honoree in three seasons.
While many who receive similar honors shrug off the awards as something they will likely not appreciate until they are old and gray, such is not the case with Alexander.
"I was happy about it," he said. "You can't say you don't care about it. As a player, everyone wants to be good, so you definitely care about it."
"I think having Huggs here has made it a lot easier to be honest," Alexander noted. "I don't see it happening without Huggs, and the rest of this coaching staff obviously.
"They just genuinely care about us as people and players, and they work hard for us. That's the biggest thing, is that they put in time for us after practice and watch film for us to break down the game. They really, genuinely care"
Add up the hardwork of the coaches with the time put in by Alexander on the court, in the film room and in the weight room, and honors such might only be the beginning of what's to come for the potential-laden forward turned all-conference pick.
"I've worked hard since I've been here, and I've always planned on getting to this point," he said. "Any player would want to have this kind of honor, and it's awesome."