Gansey says all West Virginia veteran players are improved
MORGANTOWN — Mike Gansey believes all seven holdovers on the West Virginia University men’s basketball squad have improved.
“Over the summer, some of us went different places and played in real good competition,” the 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior said last week.
“Based on last year, we kind of know the offense real well and are running things more quickly (in preseason practice) than we did a year ago.”
Gansey spent some of August in Turkey as a member of the gold-winning USA team in the 2005 World University Games.
“I was here all summer working hard, then went to Colorado Springs for the World Games trials and then to Turkey for that great experience,” he recalled.
“Playing against great players from other schools and winning a gold medal is something I’ll never forget. All that following the NCAA Elite Eight finish was just tremendous.”
But Gansey believes playing 35 games with WVU teammates in itself really improved their work ethic.
He averaged 12.0 points and led the team in points (421), field goals (160), rebounding average (5.1 rpg) and steals (57).
“Looking back, that was great for all of us and a lot of fun,” Gansey said. “It was a confidence-builder playing all those ranked teams last year and winning.
“I think we play better when playing better teams, knowing that we can compete with them.”
However, he’s quick to point out that it’s a new season just ahead, and the Mountaineers must put last season behind them.
“Right now we haven’t done anything,” he said. “We, in a kind of way, have an ‘X’ on our back from what we did last year (posting 24-11 record).
“So that makes all of us want to play much harder. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Every game is going to be a great game.”
But he realizes, as do the other players, that there aren’t going to be many, if any, easy games. The schedule is rated the toughest in school history.
Gansey does like the fact WVU will play LSU, Oklahoma and probably some other high-ranked, non-conference teams before getting into Big East play.
“That should help those growing pains which we have during the year,” he said.
WVU begins its second full week of preseason practice on Monday.
Younger Beilein impressed with WVU’s first week of practices
“It’s probably the best week of practice that I’ve ever been part of in my four years here.”
That’s what Patrick Beilein said after the West Virginia University men’s basketball team completed six sessions of preseason practice.
The oldest son of coach John Beilein is a 6-foot-4 guard who has been the first player off the bench the past two years. He’s one of five seniors on the squad.
“We have a good group of veterans, and everyone knows what my dad expects and how to get things done,” he said. “So I think things are going great.”
Young Beilein said the coaches can move quicker with preseason practice because the veterans are helping to bring newcomers along faster.
“The freshmen are trying to learn the system, especially the offense,” he said. “It’s really a tough offense to get down pat.
“But they’re picking up things pretty well. And we’re all pretty much on the same page already. I think the young guys will be fine.”
The Mountaineers have only two more weeks before playing Wheeling Jesuit in an exhibition game on Monday night, Nov. 7, at the Coliseum.
“I can’t say enough about the maturity and leadership on this team,” Beilein said. “Having five seniors can really be something very special.
“Offensively and defensively, we kind of know where each guy is on the court at all times. And we help each other.”
There is more stress on actual preparation for a game, because of the early start, and less focus on drills and conditioning, Beilein said.
He doesn’t think as much has been done in the past this early as is being done now.
Playing such strong teams as LSU and Oklahoma, along with possible semi-finalists in the Guardians Classic, should be good preparation for the Big East portion of the tough schedule.
“These early games against ranked teams have to be huge in getting us ready,” Beilein said. “We’re battle-tested against some really good teams.”
WVU finished as runner-up in the Big East tournament in 2004-05, then advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight.
The 24 victories were the most since 1958-59 when the incomparable Jerry West guided WVU to a national NCAA runner-up finish.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun this year,” Beilein predicted. “We know how to play and how to perform on the road. We’ll be ready.
“That was awesome last March. So it should be pretty exciting again this season.”
Appearing in all 35 games, he averaged 8.3 points, dished out 59 assists and came up with 24 steals. He played an average of 21.1 minutes per game.
He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the Big East. He has tremendous court vision, passing ability and good defensive instincts.
Beilein ranks third all-time in career three-point field goals made (175) at WVU. Seventy came last season.