Continued Growth

For most high schoolers, summer is a time for rest and relaxation. However, for Poca (W.Va.) High School star and future Mountaineer cager Noah Cottrill, such is simply not the case.

Cottrill, normally a member of the Ohio Basketball Club on the summer AAU circuit, is competing in this week's Triple S Harley Davidson JamFest in Morgantown with the 17-and-under entry from the West Virginia Rush.

Having been verbally committed to West Virginia for more than a year, Cottrill's main focus for now is constant improvement in all areas of his game. At 6-2, the rising junior already has the height to play point guard at the college level. Over the past few months, though, the Poca standout has added some noticeable muscle to his frame.

"I'm checking in around 180 or 185," Cottrill said Monday. "I'm a little bit bigger than last year."

His ballhandling ability and quickness were already enough to get him into the lane. Now, with added strength, Cottrill will undoubtedly find those drives into the lane a little bit easier to finish when he gets to the hoop against bigger bodies.

A perfect example of this occurred during a Monday morning game against the Columbus Basketball Club. With the Rush holding a slim lead and less than a minute remaining on the clock, Cottrill sliced into the paint and absorbed a fair amount of contact as he made his move to the hoop. Using his left hand, Cottrill was able to finish through the contact for the and-one. His subsequent foul shot swished through the net, effectively icing the game for the Rush.

Many of Cottrill's other attributes were also on display Monday morning.

Light's-out shooting? Check. Cottrill found the bottom of the net four times from downtown, all but leaving his name on the three-point line (Noah's Arc, anyone?) at the far downstairs court inside the WVU Student Recreation Center.

Floor vision? You bet. Cottrill had a handful of neck-popping passes that caught onlookers by surprise. Problem is, they also caught a few of his Rush teammates by surprise as well. Otherwise, they would have been easy lay-ins.

Defensive intensity? No, it is not an oxymoron on the AAU circuit. On one Columbus possession, Cottrill was in his man's grill so much that he caught an inadvertant elbow to the face as the possessor attempted to clear some space.

Really, the only thing missing from Cottrill's game on Monday morning was consistent free-throw shooting (in that regard, one observer quipped he's Mountaineer-ready). That being said, his lone made free throw -- the aforementioned icer -- was a biggie.

The scariest part of all this? Cottrill has yet to turn 17. That won't happen until later this month.

Some may see his early commitment to West Virginia and head coach Bob Huggins as an unnecessary target on the back. For Cottrill, it's simply a chance to prove -- and improve -- himself between now and 2010.

"It's an incentive to get better," he said. "I want to come up here and make a big impact as a freshman.

"I like it. It makes you work harder, it definitely does."

Cottrill and the Ohio Basketball Club will return to the court next week in a national tournament at the 16-and-under level.

"High school games are fun. In AAU, though, you're playing against the best players in the country," he explained. "There is a big difference, but I love summer basketball. That's where you get your scholarships."

Though Cottrill already has one of those waiting for him at WVU, don't expect him to let up anytime soon.

"I just keep trying to do what I do," he summed up. "Working hard makes you better."

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