Hard At Work

While most of the off-season attention in Morgantown is centered squarely on the work being done at the Milan Puskar Center, the Mountaineer football players aren't the only ones taking advantage of time off in the summer to develop into stronger, better conditioned athletes.

Indeed, just on the other side of the Evansdale campus, the West Virginia basketball squad is toiling away in its own weight room at the Coliseum.

"We've all been working hard and been here all summer working," said rising sophomore forward Devin Ebanks. "It's going well for everybody on the team."

Strength and conditioning work has hardly been the only item on a lengthy agenda for Ebanks, who recently returned to campus from the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio.

Ebanks had only positive things to say about the experience, which he believes helped him grow as a player.

"It went well," said Ebanks. "I learned a lot of things when I was up there. There were some things I want to work on and put in my own game."

While the sophomore did get some face time with the camp's namesake, he did not personally witness the most widely-publicized moment of the camp -- King James himself getting dunked on by Jordan Crawford of Xavier.

"I didn't see it," he said. "I was playing on another court, but I heard the crowd go crazy. I guess it was something."

After returning to Morgantown, Ebanks quickly went back to work in the weight room. The sport management major said that adding strength to his frame was his biggest priority for the offseason and that the work was starting to pay off.

Listed at 205 pounds on last year's roster, Ebanks said he is currently weighing in at 209 pounds and hopes to play this season at 215.

That means there is still plenty of work to be done, as the soon-to-be second-year player hopes to begin practice a bit heavier than that targeted goal weight.

"You kind of have to get ahead of the game, because you'll lose two or three pounds just in practice, let alone in the games," he said. "You've got to work to maintain your weight in the offseason."

While the weightlifting work may keep him busy, Ebanks took a break to grab a quick lunch (Chick-Fil-A -- perhaps helping with the weight gain) and a seat at the WVU Student Rec Center to watch the championship game of the 17-and-under division of the Triple S JamFest last Thursday.

The Long Island City, N.Y., native was more than just a casual observer. The AAU event gave him the chance to watch West Virginia commit Noah Cottrill. Ebanks liked what he saw from the young point guard.

"Noah's been playing great," Ebanks said. "I've watched him play in his last two games and he's played great. He's a good point guard. He sees the court and has great vision. That's what I like about him the most."

Occasionally tasked with running the point himself last season, those skills are ones Ebanks possesses and can appreciate. The forward came on strong towards the end of the season, having a full-blown coming out party in a series of impressive all-around games at the Big East Conference Tournament.

With what is already a considerable skill-set for a young player, adding strength may be the key to transforming Ebanks from a rangy, lanky forward to a considerable presence in the low block who also has the ability to step out and play facing the basket at mid-range.

And while the scales might not show considerable gains yet, the rising sophomore said he already feels a difference while he plays.

"I feel stronger when I go to the basket," Ebanks said. "It's not as easy to push me off as it was last year. It's a work in progress, and it's one of the major things I have to work on."

Any gains in strength or further development will only further please Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins, who repeatedly expressed satisfaction with the then-freshman's play last season.

"He's been supporting me (going to) these camps," Ebanks said. "The coaches at the camps have reported back to Huggs saying that I really impressed them and they liked me a lot. So he just wants me to continue that and get better and get stronger."

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