McBride Responds To Adversity With Strong Play
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Part of the growing process for newcomers in college athletics is learning from mistakes. While too many of those can earn a first-year player a seat on the sideline, a certain number of them have to be expected, as freshmen and junior college transfers in their first season in Division I figure out what works and what doesn’t in the bigger, stronger and faster-paced game.
Many players, while possessing a great deal of talent, take awhile to absorb those lessons. And while doing so, the impact of a missed shot, a missed read, a turnover or a bad rotation can cause them to draw back just a little bit. A shooter missing a couple of shots might pass his next open attempt. A backdoor cut that presents itself might not be aggressively taken for fear of jamming up the offense or being out of position. And without question, a defensive mistake or two can make the newbie tentative on that end of the court.
There are some players, though, that aren’t affected by such events. A few, at the very top of the game, make so many good plays that a mistake or two doesn’t have a big impact overall, as they are outweighed by all the positives they generate on the floor. For others, it’s mental toughness or competitive will — the ability to put mistakes aside and keep playing with the same level of intensity.
For West Virginia, one of those players is freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride. Playing with the flair that his nickname suggests, McBride shows no signs of hesitance or reluctance, no matter what the situation.
Take, for example, his play down the stretch against Northern Iowa in the Cancun Challenge. As the Mountaineers battled back from a 15-point second half deficit, McBride went to the line with the chance to trim the deficit to four. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, and when the Panthers made a pair of their own free throws moments later, WVU’s momentum was blunted.
That didn’t stop the Cincinnati, Ohio, native. He pulled up on a transition possession just moments later and nailed a jumper, then repeated the process after a Mountaineers tell to bring the lead back to four. Less than a minute later, he canned a 3-pointer, then followed with yet another jumper after a WVU steal to give the Mountaineers the lead.
So what make a player impervious, or at least unbothered, by freshman jitters?
“Just growing up with an older brother and a dad that played, and going to a great high school that put me in a lot of tight spots playing great teams and great players,” McBride said. “It’s been all through my life. If you back down, they are going to step right over you. You have to rise to the challenge.”
McBride showed the same resilience down the stretch against Rhode Island, making three of four free throws after drawing fouls on drives to the hoop, then dishing out an assist to Haley with 12 seconds to play to put West Virginia up by three.
These tight contests not only helped the newcomers experience the intensity of major college basketball, but should also help prepare them for the future.
“It’s going to go a long way,” McBride said of those games. “Big 12 play is going to be even better players and tighter games. If we can stick together and continue to work, we are going to be ready for those moments.”
Adversity, such as the Mountaineers experienced in those games, has also helped build resilience on the team. When Rhode Island rallied to the tie the game in the second half at the Coliseum on Sunday, McBride noted that the players pushed back even before the coaches said anything.
“It can’t always be a coach-led team,” said McBride, who is averaging 7.3 points while leading the team in assists with 22. “You have to have seniors and leaders on the team to step up. Jermaine (Haley), Derek (Culver), guys really just went into that role and helped us out, and the guys on the bench kept us up with energy. It’s really been a whole family that we have going on.”
The next challenge on the list is a trip to the mecca of college hoops for a game against St. John’s. Like most of those presented to WVU this year, there’s respect and anticipation, but no fear, as the Mountaineers look forward to the game.
“We are very excited for this opportunity. Not a lot of players get to go and play in Madison Square Garden,” McBride said.