College Prep

Like many prep basketball coaches, Orlando McCoy tries to strike a balance between working players for immediate success while also preparing some of them for college careers.

It can be a delicate path, but McCoy seems to be right on track as he works with rising sophomore Elijah Macon, who committed to West Virginia after a one-day weekend visit to the Mountaineer campus.

"For me, he plays center, but we have him working on his outside shot too," said McCoy as he described the program for Macon, who figures to play facing the basket in college. "He can be a swing man or a four. We are trying to work on his overall game so that he improves on all of those skills. He has really good hands and solid post moves, and he is very active. He gets on the boards, too. Dribbling, right now, he can use both his left and right hands, and he will keep working to improve that too. He runs the floor really well too."

"You have to prepare them both for high school and for college, McCoy continued. "That's best for him to do that. If I play him just in the post, then he doesn't get the experience he needs. And if he hasn't worked on an outside shot, then he won't be a threat in high school or when he moves on. So we want to work him on a lot of different things. We'll play him at the three, four and five this year."

Although Macon's skills are easy to see, McCoy isn't blind to the fact that he will have to continue to improve throughout his high school career. However, he thinks that Macon has one additional attribute that will make that happen.

"He really wants to learn," McCoy said. "You look him in the eye and tell him something, and then he goes out there and tries to do it. When you criticize, he doesn't take it personally. He knows it's not personal. He takes what you say and works on it."

Tops on the list of those items is strength improvement, which is a given for a high school sophomore. Also there is increasing range and work on his outside shot, which hasn't been a big part of his game to date.

"I think that when he talked to the West Virginia strength coach and saw some of the players there, that really opened his eyes," McCoy said. "In the car back home, he was already talking about getting into the weight room and starting to lift. He saw, from some of the other players there, how important getting stronger is."

As a player who dominated middle school competition by his sheer height, Macon had to make some adjustments when he came to high school, but it didn't take long for him to do that. Halfway through his ninth grade year, he became an integral part of the Marion-Franklin High School squad, and established himself as a leader on the team.

With that experience behind him, Macon played for the Ohio All Read AAU team, and wound up with stints on two different age group teams. The experience of playing "up" – against older competition – was also helpful.

"The AAU play has been good for him, because he gets to travel and play against different levels of competition, but then when he comes back here to me he listens and works. That's not something you see from every player. He's just an overall great kid."

McCoy, who accompanied Macon to West Virginia's camp, had a revealing conversation with him on the drive back to Columbus.

"I told him that he had gotten a lot of praise there from the West Virginia coaches, but that now he has to bring that back home and learn from it. You played against great competition, you saw how physical they were, so you have to learn from that and know what you have to work on. Seeing their strength and skills; that motivated him. You can learn a lot there, and he saw how hard West Virginia's players played too. A lot of high school players, until they see other kids do it, they don't believe it. You tell them they can't be lazy, but they still loaf. Elijah, when you tell him that, he takes it all well. He doesn't debate with you. He just listens and goes and works. Any coach would love to coach him."


McCoy was also impressed with the organization of the camp run by head coach Bob Huggins and his staff.

"I was writing down drills that they were running, because I thought the camp and practices were really well planned. They followed their agenda, they had great warm-up drills and they kept it moving. The even had a few plays to run, and part of that was to teach each player if they could retain what you show them. They'd split up the players on different courts and show them a play and have then run few it a few times, and then they'd get back together and see if they could run it. They also had a lot of shooting drills and defensive drills, and I liked that those were included. The entire camp was run really well. The coaches communicated with kids, too – they got around to all of them and talked with all of them."

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