WVU Basketball Works On Summer Improvement Plan
By Kevin Kinder
While the competition season is in a dormant state in college athletics, many teams are working in preparation for the upcoming 2017-18 seasons. Men’s basketball at WVU, with high expectations following a Sweet 16 appearance last year, is one of those, with both individual and team sessions taking place at the sparkling practice facility behind the WVU Coliseum.
There is much to build upon, with returning stalwarts fueling anticipation for the upcoming season, but there are also the challenges of preparing players for bigger roles, not to mention the integration of newcomers into the program. That’s a lot to try to cram into the limited team and individual sessions, which are allowed for just a handful of hours per week. In light of that, coaches have specific goals in mind for what they want to accomplish during the summer months before the “official” start of practices.
“I think the whole key is to get the guys who need to work on weaknesses to get better at them, while not sacrificing the things they do well,” WVU assistant coach Ron Everhart said. “We definitely have a plan with each and every kid on the individual part of it, but we do get two hours a week on the team side. We want to integrate them into our culture so to speak — playing hard and doing the things that we do. But on the individual side we want to make sure we give them the things we need to have them work with on their own, where they can improve.”
Sounds simple enough, but it encompasses a lot. For returning veterans who understand the amount of work it takes to be successful (think Jevon Carter) there’s not a lot of teaching to be done. He knows what he needs to do, and what he needs to work on (he identified defending off high ball screens as an area he wanted to improve in, for example). He’ll get that done. But for players with just a year or so in the program, there’s the process described by Everhart, but also the task of getting them to understand and commit to the amount and quality of work that has to be done to get WVU to the highest levels of success. They have Carter to use as a role model, but they have to do it every day themselves.
Thus, when looking at guys like Lamont West, Maciej Bender, Esa Ahmad, James Bolden, etc., the challenge is clear. Continue to polish the good, improve the not-so-good, but most of all commit to the process of working.
Then there’s the newcomers. While players such as Brandon Knapper and D’Angelo Hunter have shown early signs of being able to contribute this year, they also have to get indoctrinated into West Virginia’s style of play. That’s not just the press, which is of course a big part of it, but also the drive to play every possession at peak effort, to compete for every rebound and loose ball, and to work on their games individually.
That’s one of the biggest items Everhart listed as important in the summer sessions. There simply isn’t enough time to work on honing a jumper or working on ballhandling during team practices. While they may be highlighted as areas of improvement — see again the individual plans for each player — the actual improvement has to happen outside formal practice times. That work, as much as the summer practices where four players or the entire team can get together, will be the foundation upon which the success of the 2017-18 season is built.