Jordan McCabe: ‘Players Need to Change WVU Culture’
MORGANTOWN — This wasn’t how he pictured it, Jordan McCabe admitted.
Not 10-13, not losses by 20 or more points, not last place in the Big 12.
He, and the rest of his new West Virginia teammates, were coming into a winning and established program, one that expected an NCAA bid every year and chance to win the Big 12 . . . yet they didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into.
The point guard who was Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin last year is handling it as best he can, approaching it with an adult demeanor, accepting this season for what it is and also accepting his shortcomings not as bullets to the heart but as potholes in the road to success.
He notes that college basketball is like a different sport compared to high school or AAU basketball.
“In some ways it is a different sport, yes,” he said in answer to the question. “In some ways, no. Anyone who hits this level has been playing for a long time and at a high level. It is basketball.”
The coaching staff is trying to emphasize that to the young players, to just go out and play as they had.
But it is easier said than done.
“Sometimes it’s a tough concept because I have to go out there and think of a thousand things in a millisecond,” McCabe said. “It is a lot different that high school and AAU but it’s the same in some aspects. We’re all trying to get around this curve and get to the point that there’s an ‘uptick’ because being on ‘downtick’ is frustrating.”
McCabe seems to be reaching that point. He’s been playing more minutes, doing more things and one of the few players who looks as if he’s beginning to grow into his role.
But it’s baby steps.
“It’s different than it is in high school,” Coach Bob Huggins admitted. “You can’t away with what you got away with there. What Jordan has yet to understand is passing lanes, passing angles.
“If you make a pass 15 to 17 feet and make it away from the defender, it’s almost impossible to run through. If you make that same pass from 22 feet away, the chances are pretty good they are going to run through it.
“You’ve got to maintain spacing and they don’t understand that. You can’t maintain spacing if you run to the sideline. That’s normal for young guys who used to get away with it just because they are better than the other high school guys. Now they are not.”
That is where so many turnovers are coming from, but there is so much more to it.
McCabe understands that, although it seems obvious that so few of his teammates grasp it.
“I don’t want to point fingers or do anything like that, but our culture needs to change . . . and it’s a players thing, not a coaches thing,” McCabe said.
Culture? That’s an interesting concept to be lacking at a school that has had so much success in basketball.
“We played Tennessee and I think that is one of the best cultures in college basketball. They have a team that has been together for a long time and that’s the big difference between them and us. We haven’t been together that long,” McCabe said.
“I remember listening to the broadcast and Fran Fraschilla said he was at practice and it felt like Schofield was running practice or it felt like Williams was running practice. That doesn’t mean they were overriding a Hall of Fame coach like Rick Barnes but they are taking ownership in what they have.”
And that is what WVU lacks, the player who has claimed ownership of this team.
“You need more than one player doing that at this level. We have guys who want that position . . . to be honest I want that position,” McCabe admitted. “It’s something I think I can help us with in the future but right now I’m picking my spots. It’s a touchy situation, being a freshman.
“The thing with being a young player and being vocal is you know it’s the right thing to do but at the same times as a young player there’s so many things I have to learn. I can’t be vocal to the point where I am directing people or yelling because I have things to learn.
“They will write you off if you do that. You need to pick and choose your times in how you communicate. Communication is something our team need to get better at.”
Huggins understands what McCabe going through.
“I think to be a leader they have to respect you, respect your game, respect your knowledge of the game,” he said. “For example, at Cincinnati for me Kenyon Martin wasn’t a leader as a freshman.
“When he was a senior when he talked everyone listened to him and shut up. When he was a freshman and sophomore, no one listened to him. It’s a matter of proving yourself.”
The losing isn’t easy to accept.
“It wears on you a little bit,” McCabe admitted. “You have two options. You hit that wall and you can either lay down and let the season roll over you or you can keep pushing and whether or not results are changing you can keep doing the right things because if you do that things eventually will turn in your favor.
“Whether it’s in the very near future or not, I plan on doing that and I know a lot of guys here are planning to do everything they can to change this.”