Desert Dribblings

A clipbook of items and thoughts from WVU's first day in the desert.

WVU radio analyst Jay Jacobs has been piling up the miles over the past week. He travelled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, went home to Frederick, Md. on Saturday night, hopped a plane to Albuquerque on Sunday, then flew on to Phoenix on Tuesday.

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Is there any doubt as to which team the NCAA expects to advance? While WVU, Xavier and Wester Kentucky are ensconced at airport hotels, UCLA has rate a stay at the Hilton Suites in a swankier part of town.

O.K., so I don't really believe that. But it does seem a bit unequitable.

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NCAA tournament sites feature a media workroom with tables, snacks, video and audio hookups, and the interview room that is a familiar site for those watching interviews on television. The thing you don't see is that each of these rooms is done out in NCAA blue. And I mean done out. The Phoenix media room, which is on the practice court where the NBA Phoenix Suns work out, has blue table drape, blue carpet, blue curtains, and blue backdrops. It makes shooting photographs that don't have a blue haze over them a problem.

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One of the workers at the Phoenix site, Steve Shaff, is the sports communication director at Northern Arizona University. In the small world category, Shaff roomed with former WVU assistant coach Matt Brown while both were at the University of Florida. Brown went on to the head coaching job at the University of Missouri - Kansas City -- and in another strange twist, Northern Arizona played the Kangaroos in basketball this past year defeating them 77-62.

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The basketballs used by WVU at their shootaround on Wednesday were the same Wilson make and model as employed at all the other NCAA sites, but they seemed to be much harder and higher-bouncing than those West Virginia shot with in Washington, D.C. Whether that will have an effect, either physically or psychologically, remains to be seen.

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Security is very tight at America West Arena. One guard outside the Xavier locker room sported a bulletproof vest.

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Among the onlookers at WVU's shootaround were former Mountaineer great Hot Rod Hundley and fomrer Mountaineer player and coach Joedy Gardner. Gardner coached at Northern Arizona before taking the West Virginia job, where he led WVU to 53 wins from 1975-78.

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Finally, West Virginia is continuing its strong practice sessions, even this late in the season. During the one hour open practice on Wednesday, WVU worked for 15 minutes on one-on-one defensive drills, with the guards concentrating on stopping penetration to the middle of the floor, while the post players worked on denying entry passes and good position on the blocks. It, like most everything else in the Huggins camp, was performed at full speed. WVU will practice again later today and tomorrow as well.

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Another item about drills -- they are conducted with an eye toward wringing every possible benefit out of the time alloted. When WVU runs a three-man fast break drill, not only does the wing player receiving the ball shoot a lay-up, but the other two players get passes from managers or coaches standing nearby so they can get shots as well.

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Assistant coach Billy Hahn had two mantras during the open shooting session. "Screeners get the best shots" and Practice making shots, not missing them." Basic, but things that need to be repeated and drilled into players' heads.


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