Early Returns

True freshman basketballer Kevin Pittsnogle has been thrown into the fire in the preseason. The result? An encouraging start to what promises to be an excellent career.

Everyone knoew that center Kevin Pittsnogle would get a baptism of fire during his initial season with West Virginia. But not even the most optimistic of observers would have expected the numbers that the lanky freshman has put up during WVU's exhibition season.

In two games, Pittsnogle has averaged more than 20 minutes per game. He scored 23 points in the two contests, made four of nine three point field goals, and snared ten rebounds. Not bad for the player who's a year younger than the other freshmen on the roster!

The stat that jumps out from that line, of course is the three point shooting. Pittsnogle came to WVU with the proven reputation of being a very good long-range shooter, but so do hundreds of other incoming freshmen. Pittsnogle knew the challenge would be much more difficult in college.

"It's been a lot different from high school. The biggest guys I usually played against there were 6-4 or 6-5," Pittsnogle said recently.

The Martinsburg, W. Va. native hasn't shown any reluctance to take his shot, but he hasn't forced many either. That balance is something that usually isn't present in many college newcomers, but seems to be a natural part of Pittsnogle's game, just like his soft shooting stroke and good passing ability.

This isn't to say that Pittsnogle is going to dominate foes this year or be the terror of the conference. He, as well as anyone else, knows that he has a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive end and in the post.

"Most of what I've worked on are just a refreshment of fundamentals," Pittsnogle said of his preseason routine. "We work on fundamentals a lot.

"I've learned a great deal already. I've been working on my post up moves and a hook shot. I've been working on a drop step and catching the ball on both feet. I've also been working on all this with my back to the basket, and working on drawing fouls."

Pittsnogle will be a target defensively as he works to increase his strength. This year, he'll have to rely on positioning and footwork (those fundamentals again) to battle opponents inside. Learning all the tricks of that trade take time, so there will be nights that opposing centers get their points.

That's all part of the growing process, however. And Pittsnogle does have an excellent practice partner to learn from in the form of transfer D'or Fischer.

"Most of the time we play, were guarding each other. That's probably the best thing for me right now," Pittsnogle said as he analyzed the things he needs to do to improve. "He was the number two shot blocker in the nation, so if I can score on him or play well against him, I think I can play against people in the Big East."

The competition is only going to get tougher for the young freshman as the season progresses. His numbers are apt to go up and down as he learns the ins and outs of the college game. However, there's no denying that the young freshman has forged an encouraging start to his college career.

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