Mazzulla, along with 10 other members of various Big East and Atlantic 10 teams, traveled to the Bahamas a fortnight ago to take on members of the Bahamian national team, as well as other squads make up of players trying out for that squad. It was a jam-packed extended weekend, with games dominating the trip.
"We had 11 players overall, and we'd split up and play two games per day," said WVU's tough point guard, for who two games a day is akin to a snack for a sumo wrestler. "We played nine games from Friday through Tuesday, and I played all of them. We went 9-0, and it was a good experience for me."
Mazzulla, who will be one of the veteran leaders on the 2008-09 Mountaineer squad, found benefits in a couple of different areas on the trip.
"It was a good chance to play against some different competition, and one of the things I really wanted to see was how I could lead other guys on the floor – different guys that I hadn't played with before. I wanted to work on that and see how I could improve, but also use those lessons to help lead everyone, bring them together, and see how well we could play together."
Working on that process was no idle goal for Mazzulla, who will be charged with integrating a talented group of freshmen newcomers with the holdovers from last year's team. While it might appear to be a simple matter of just getting the ball to players like Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Roscoe Davis and Darryl Bryant, Mazzulla knows there's much more to it than that. From his point guard position, he is the pulse of the team, and he will have to help usher the freshmen along while also working them in with their new teammates.
That's something, of course, that Mazzulla has experienced from the other end of the spectrum. Two years ago, it was Darris Nichols teaching those lessons and helping players like Mazzulla get oriented to the college game, and now he's ready to take over the role of teacher.
"I need to make sure that Truck and the other guys know the plays, and that we all get to know each other as players," he said. Coach Martin did a great job this year of helping me prepare for that, and I have to thank him for that. He has really helped me grow into that role, and be ready to help Truck learn all those things that I have learned."
Thus armed, Mazzulla was pleased with the outcome of his trip to the Bahamas – not only with the record, but also with his ability to help mold a team out of players form several different schools. Such trips could easily turn into one-on-one showcases, but Mazzulla resisted that temptation and was able to test and use the leadership skills he'll be employing more than ever before at the Coliseum this fall.
The second major benefit of the trip was the chance to test, in competition, some changes to his jump shot. Mazzulla has long employed a bit of a funky looking release on his shot, and even though he shot 45% from three-point range last year (9-20), he knew that his shot needed some tweaking if he was to become a more consistent scorer. Thus, about a week after the season, he and the Mountaineer coaching staff began working on some changes.
"You'll definitely see a difference," the Rhode Island native said in reference to his form. "I fell like I've mastered it now, and when I went down to the Bahamas I had a lot of confidence in it. I think I have a better stance and follow-through now, and the games down there gave me a chance to perfect it.
"The difference between this year and last year is that I didn't have to shoot the ball. I didn't approach it last year with the mindset that I needed to score, and maybe that was the wrong mentality. This year, I will have the confidence to step right into the shot and take it. The coaches know I have been working on it, and I think they will have confidence in me to do that."
With those improvements on his agenda, Mazzulla will stay in Morgantown for much of the summer to work on them. He knows that his leadership will be crucial to the success of year two of the Bob Huggins regime, and will be tackling those challenges in his usual headlong rush.
Mazzulla did get time to appreciate some of the amenities of the Bahamas. He and his teammates stayed in townhouses and had the chance to get out to the beach and other attractions in between games.