WVU Alums Carter, Smith Taking Advantage Of Pro Opportunities

West Virginia guard Jevon Carter drives for a shot

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If there is one thing you learn as you go through life, especially in the sports writing profession, it is that if you look around enough corners, you are going to find something that fits a story that is bouncing around in your mind but doesn’t have the glue to put it together.

And so it was as we were looking at story ideas for the week. While heading off in one direction, I stumbled upon a video of a much younger West Virginia baseball coach Randy Mazey than the one that is here today. Now this is a story that has nothing to do with Mazey or baseball, for that matter, but what he had to say did.

See, his baseball program was just becoming established , but had lost seven consecutive games and was facing an Ohio State team that was pretty good in a mid-week game.

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He needed someone to pitch, so he dug into his bullpen and pulled out a struggling Ross Vance, and all of a sudden, the Mountaineer mood changed as Vance not only beat the Buckeyes, 4-1, but struck out 14 in the process.

After the game, Mazey offered up a message that fits far better in today’s subject that it even did then.

“What an unbelievable performance just when we needed it,” Mazey began. “We pitched him in relief this whole season, and he hasn’t been effective. Who knew? Who knew he could do that if given the opportunity?”

And here comes the lesson.

“That’s what I tell my guys all the time. In baseball and in life, sometimes opportunities are far and few between, but when you get them, you have to take advantage of them.”

Opportunities and take advantage. We offer this up because a couple of former West Virginia athletes have waited and waited for that opportunity to come to them, and each seems to be sitting on a turning point in his career.

Both are Mountaineer heroes, one in basketball, one in football, each a high draft pick.
The basketball player is Jevon Carter, who suddenly has become a key part of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks after being released by Brooklyn, and the other is quarterback Geno Smith, who bounced around the NFL but now has that opportunity laid open in front of him with the chance to replace Russell Wilson as the Seattle Seahawks’ starter.

Originally with Memphis, Carter struggled for playing time and didn’t do enough with it when he had it. He moved on to the Phoenix Suns and showed progress but was beaten out for the spot as Chris Paul’s backup at point guard by Cameron Payne — not the one who played at WVU in the pre-Carter days.

His journey took him to Brooklyn with the Nets this year, but shots would not fall for him, and when they signed Goran Dragic, he was released.

Opportunity was waiting for him, and rather than giving up, rather than getting down, he signed on with Milwaukee and played as he had not played before as a professional, the residue of all those extra hours in the gym finally clicking in. He has become a force off the bench in the playoffs, replacing injured three-time all-star Khris Middleton.

A 33.3% shooter with the Nets, he shot 50.6% from the field and a ridiculous 55.8% from 3-point range in the regular season and in the playoffs is shooting 43.8% and 42.9% from distance. In the first round, he led the entire NBA in the +/- category off the bench with a +46.

Smith’s story is equally as intriguing. He had stamped himself as an NFL backup when the record-shattering Mountaineer quarterback, after being drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, went just 11-18 in 29 starts his first two years with the team.

Geno Smith

Now entering his ninth season and having started just five more games the rest of his career, Smith has spent the last two years with the Seattle Seahawks, who are replacing Russell Wilson this season.

And right now, Smith has been tabbed the frontrunner for the job by coach Pete Carroll, listed ahead of Drew Lock and Jacob Eason.

“The competition is underway,” Carroll said over the weekend. “Geno has come in and is obviously ahead going in because he had all the background with us. He’s been with us for a number of years. He leads the charge right now. He’s in command of our system as much as a guy could be.”

Smith pushed himself to front of the line last year when he relieved an injured Wilson. Cold and not having thrown a meaningful pass in three years, he came on in relief and had the fans chanting “Gee-No! Gee-No!” with his performance, although he could not lead them from behind to victory.

“I went right to Geno afterward and just said, ‘You know, you’ve been waiting a long time for your opportunity, and the faith that you’ve shown in our program and in us to stay with us, I was so proud,” Carroll said after the game.

It was another example of having patience and loyalty, of waiting for a chance rather than heading off in some other direction, and having it come your way.

Whether Carter and Smith can push themselves to the front is another story, but it is one that could be written.

And certainly, for those dreamers behind them who are waiting for their chance, both serve as proof that if you go about your business the right way, the opportunity likely will come.

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Home Page forums WVU Alums Carter, Smith Taking Advantage Of Pro Opportunities

Home Page forums WVU Alums Carter, Smith Taking Advantage Of Pro Opportunities