Practice Advantage

West Virginia's basketball practice facility, on the boards for a fall construction start, is primarily viewed as a benefit for recruiting by most Mountaineer fans. However, for the coaches involved, there's another huge plus that the facility will provide – one that most supporters don't see or think about.

Head basketball coaches Mike Carey and Bob Huggins certainly don't discount the effects that the new facility will have on recruiting. Both have already used drawings and renderings of the building and its accoutrements in the process of wooing players to West Virginia. However, the building will be even more valuable in the eyes of both in another, more mundane area – practice.

As Carey notes, West Virginia is one of the few major universities without a basketball practice facility – the key word being "practice". WVU has long been hampered by the fact that its hoop teams have to cast about for places to practice, as the Coliseum is a true multi-purpose facility.

This problem hasn't been an incidental one. Huggins said earlier this year that his teams had managed to get one pre-season practice on the Coliseum floor during his initial year at his alma mater. And even during the offseason, other events, such as maintenance, concerts, classes, other sport practices, graduations and the like take up the main floor, pushing WVU's basketball teams to other locations, including some off-campus venues, for workouts.

"A lot of people think it's just for looks and for recruiting purposes, but that's not it at all," Carey told BlueGoldNews.com in an exclusive interview. "It's for both the men's and women's programs to have a place to practice. There are a lot of times Coach Huggins and I don't have a place to practice, and we have to go around and find a place to do that. Whether it's the [WVU] Rec Center or Morgantown High School or another school, we have to find somewhere to go. That creates a problem, especially when you are right in the middle of the season. It will be great for both programs to get that facility.

"We are one of a small percentage of schools that don't have a practice facility, so it's exciting that we can now show recruits and parents that we are in the process of building one. It will be very nice. And we'll have a place we can practice every day."

Carey went on to explain that even over the summer, when external demands on the Coliseum are lessened, events still conspire to push WVU's athletes to other venues.

"They are in the process of upgrading the scoreboard and the lights in the Coliseum, and all of a sudden, we have nowhere to do individual workouts again. So, we go off to the Rec Center and other places to try to do that."

Carey, of course, isn't complaining about improvements to his team's home court. He appreciates the new additions to the Coliseum, and understands that court downtime is an unavoidable consequence of those renovations. However, after battling scheduling for so long, and working around other events and casting about for places to practice, he is clearly relieved that a solution is finally on the way.

Huggins, who mentions practice time even before the recruiting angle in discussing the "missing link" in WVU's basketball program, joins him in that view.

"I think it's certainly going to help us in recruiting but that's not the idea behind it," Huggins confirmed. "We need a place where we can practice. We have so many things in the Coliseum that time becomes minimal, particularly for us in the offseason when we are trying to get our workouts in and those things. People don't realize that there are all those events, concerts, and other sports that take place there."

Huggins, like Carey, is appreciative of everything that has been done to provide practice venues. However, the lack of stability, coupled with the weekly challenge of finding places to work, have been a drain on both basketball staffs.

"The people at the Rec Center have been wonderful in trying to accommodate us, but we need a home, like everybody else has," Huggins observers. "My dream is a place where we can honor the great history of West Virginia basketball."

That dream, obviously, overlaps a bit to the recruiting side, which Huggins admitted is an important one as well.

"Practice facilities have become ‘wow' centers," he observed. "You walk in the door and say, ‘wow'. And people that are committed to their basketball programs have done that, and there is a tremendous commitment here. But there's a difference between having ‘wants' and ‘needs'. ‘Wants' aren't nearly as important as ‘needs', and this is a need for us. We simply need a place where we can practice every day. When you go back and forth between the Coliseum and the Rec Center and other places, it can be a problem."

So, while many look at the new facility as just another item for the burgeoning arms race of recruiting, Carey and Huggins have a different view. Just like the Cary Gymnastics practice facility and the new wrestling center provided those squads with their own areas for workouts (thus lessening the strain on Coliseum time), so too will the new basketball facility help overall – and give the coaches one less headache to worry about.


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