For examples, one need look no further than Mountain State's two recent games in Charleston. Both Logan and George Washington came out smoking in the first half, playing by far their best basketball of the season. GW lead by five at the half, while Logan's blistering three-point shooting also had it in contention. However, Cottrill wasn't disturbed or flustered.
"We just try to keep our composure and come out and concentrate," he noted. "You really have to stay focused, especially against these really good teams."
That Cottrill and his teammates did. They didn't panic. They didn't get out of their offense, or commit wild fouls trying to get the ball back. They simply played their game, led by their ever-improving point guard.
Two years ago, Cottrill probably wouldn't have been positioned to lead such comebacks, or play the steadying influence. Like any talented player, the then-freshman was still testing his limits; still learning the nuances of the game. In an effort to bring them back, he might have tried to do too much. No more. As a junior, Cottrill has rounded into an excellent decision-maker and floor general. He routinely makes the correct decision in running the offense, and doesn't force shots of his own. Despite averaging 25 points per game, he's not dominating the ball. He penetrates and dishes off more than he shoots, and his ability to hit long range jumpers or take it to the basket makes him a difficult player to guard.
The experience Cottrill has gained at Mountain State has figured greatly in that development. Facing a schedule dotted with national powers, he has not only faced outstanding individual competition, but has also figured out how to run the offense and get everyone involved. That's an important key for the Falcons, whose roster is dotted with players destined for Division I colleges.
Another aspect in Cottrill's developing leadership skills has been his work in helping meld Mountain State's every changing lineup. Last year's star player, Kofi Mensa, has not played this year due to an internal infection, and isn't expected back until next year. MSA lost Jabs Newby for a significant portion of the schedule with a hip injury, and recently added Shaquille Thomas and TyQuane Goard to the roster. While those additions certainly helped the Falcons' talent level, it put them in a hole as far as knowledge of the system, and each other, are considered.
Cottrill has concentrated on getting everyone into the offensive system, and it shows in MSA's play. Directing teammates, running the offense and whipping passes through the smallest of cracks, he shows the leadership skills necessary to be a floor general at West Virginia. He admits that it hasn't been easy, however.
"It's tough. We had a couple weeks off a while ago to get everyone involved and get them to learn the system, but we're still getting used to each other," he explained. "We're starting to do that, and it's really going to be fun when we get everybody together."
MSA, ranked among the top 50 high school teams in the country this year, does appear to be on that upward arc. It has a number of tough tests left, including another game against Oak Hill Academy and tournaments in New Jersey and Charlotte to end the season. Its success in those games will largely depend on the team's growing process. With Cottrill at the center of that, it won't be a surprise to see MSA continue up the national rankings.
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Cottrill's game has evolved and improved tremendously since he committed to West Virginia. His shot selection is very good. He could easily average 35 points per game, but with the talent around him he does not hog the ball. He pushes the ball to the lane with whirling dervish drives, and is just as apt to dish the ball to an open teammate on the perimeter as he is to continue for a shot. He's not afraid of contact, and can get shots off in traffic. His jumper remains a quick release dagger if defenders back off too far, and he will be a three-point threat from the first time he sets foot on the Coliseum floor.
Noah Cottrill Profile