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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

September 9th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


West Virginia Mountaineers

Overall Rank: #64

Conference Rank: #9 Big East


2005-06: 22-11, 11-5, 3rd

2005-06 postseason: NCAA


Of the seven players who averaged over five minutes for West Virginia last year, only two are returning.  That means the Mountaineers have tons of question marks with 83 percent of its scoring and 78 percent its assists leaving.  The youth and inexperience will provide some growing pains of Mike Seaver proportions, but by March, Coach John Beilein will turn this group of unknowns into a somewhat dangerous team.


Who’s Out: With apologies to returning senior Frank Young, WVU has lost its best five players.  Assist men J.D. Collins and Johannes Herber, super shooter Patrick Beilein, do-everything Mike Gansey and everybody’s hero Kevin Pittsnogle are gone. 


Who’s In: Of the incoming freshmen, small forward De’Sean Butler has the best chance to contribute dramatically.  His strength, or lack there of, has been an issue, but the 6-7 Bloomfield, New Jersey native has a nice stroke and can get to the basket.  Cam Thoroughman, Wellington Smith, Devan Bawinkel and Jonnie West will add more depth on the wings.  Thoroughman and Smith have the height to move to the four if needed, Bawinkle is a tremendous scorer and West is a smart player with some quality family lineage being the son of legend Jerry West.  By the time the season starts, Coach Beilein will probably find a player or two out of that group to redshirt.  Lefty point guard Joe Mazzulla is a smart player and will need to learn the system quickly and become a quality backup.  Power forward Jacob Green lacks the strength and scoring presence to be too effective early in his career, but the Clinton, Maryland product has plenty of potential and is expected to become a significant contributor before his career in Morgantown is over.  A newcomer that is ready to hit the floor running is Jamie Smalligan.  The 7-0 center made 30 career starts during his two year stint at Butler.  Smalligan is a Pittsnogley (I can make up words about Pittsnogle too) type of player who can hit the long ball with regularity. 


Who to Watch: Young will get the chance to be the star for the Mountaineers.  The 6-5 small forward started 32 games last year, averaging 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists and will be asked to be the upperclassman leader of the squad.  Young is a decent shooter and, like we’ve come to expect from WVU, can hit the long ball.  Darris Nichols will step into the point guard spot after coming off the bench last season.  As a sophomore, the 6-2 Radford, Virginia product averaged 3.1 points and 1.5 assists per contest.  The two guard spot doesn’t have many options.  Alex Ruoff, ideally a small forward, didn’t see much action as a freshman, but will get the first shot at the starting job.


Final Projection: Joe Alexander and Rob Summers didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard last year.  Alexander, who saw action in just ten contests, averaged 1.3 points.  At 6-8, he’s a big man that can step out and hit the long ball.  Summers, who saw his first action for WVU last season after transferring in from Penn State, has some experience in the system and will get the opportunity to make a big impact in the paint.  This isn’t the same WVU team we’ve seen for a while and a trip to the NIT should be the obtainable goal.  An NCAA season means Coach Beilein is stockpiling talent and nobody knew about it.  After a tough few months getting the youngsters comfortable, the Mountaineers will be able to compete with the mid-level teams in the Big East and make an NIT run.


Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT


Projected Starting Five:

Darris Nichols, Junior, Guard, 3.1 points per game

Alex Ruoff, Sophomore, Forward, 1.0 points per game

Frank Young, Senior, Forward, 7.4 points per game

Joe Alexander, Sophomore, Forward, 1.3 points per game

Jamie Smalligan, Junior, Center, DNP last season

65 Stanford » Complete List » 63 Vanderbilt

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