WVU Hoops Rebuild Begins In Summer Work
The season is still six months away, but the rebuilding process for West Virginia’s basketball team is already underway, even though the roster is not yet completed. For the four recruits that are already signed, though, the initial stages have begun.
“The summer preparation is key,” WVU assistant coach Ron Everhart said. “The young men coming into the program understand that, and we coaches understand that. We communicate that during the recruiting process. They ask us, and it’s clear to them what their priorities are in getting their skills to a level where they need to be. I think they are aware of that. Most of the kids have a really good idea of what they need to do, and I think they will be serious about it.”
Of course, the returnees are also working on their own to improve their games, and all players enrolled in summer school will have the benefit of working with the coaching staff for a few hours per week, as well as participate in the team’s trip to Spain in August. That will be a critical time for a squad that returns just seven players, and will be welcoming perhaps that many newcomers. Every moment of team practice time will have to be devoted to figuring out the talents of each player and how they can mesh into an effective system, and any of that that has to be shortened to focus on fundamental skills will delay the overall process. Thus, ballhandling, shooting, defensive footwork and passing are some of the key items that are on the spring and summer agenda.
Another large part of the learning curve is the press, which the coaching staff wants to reintroduce this year. It might not look the same as some presses of the past few years, but no matter what the end result looks like, every player will have to master some of the fundamentals of any pressure defense.
“The pressure the ball part is not difficult – one time,” said Everhart, emphasizing the last two words of that sentence. “It’s the consistency doing it every time, every play, that’s the big change in a player’s attitude mentally.
“Then there’s the speed of the game. The guys they are going to be pressuring are a whole lot faster. The have to be more intelligent about it. They have to use angles and understand how to play; how to cut the court in half. We are confident we can do a good enough job teaching that to the guys so they can adjust pretty quickly.”
The coaching staff can easily whip out cutups of previous Mountaineer greats to help in that teaching effort, but there’s obviously a line between how much you can teach, and how much was just great talent on the part of those previous players. For example, newcomers can be dispatched to watch Jevon Carter, but do any of them posses his rare combination of hand quickness, tenacity and sly tricks that made him the greatest Mountaineer defender of all time?
“If he wasn’t such a great basketball player, he would have been a great prizefighter, because he had such fast hands and he could get them on the ball so quickly,” Everhart said of Carter. “That’s just something he had, but I think we can teach players that so they can at least be disruptive. Nate Adrian for example, was a guy who was tremendously disruptive in our press. That was something he learned over time and became very good at. I think that is something we can teach our team and improve.”
If there’s one thing Everhart and the rest of the staff are looking for, it’s continued, non-stop effort. He believes that the returnees, along with the signed newcomers, have that gene. It’s a requirement to make the press work in the way the staff wants it too – and the way it needs to in order for the Mountaineers to have success.
“It’s all about motor; when you have guys who can go and go and go,” Everhart explained. “We have Tshiebwe coming in, and we think he’s a lot like that. We think the guards coming in have the ability to do that on a consistent basis. We have a different mindset and a different motor as a team. That’s something we are always going to strive to do – play with more intensity for longer than our opponent.”