| By Jay Jacobs for MSNsportsNET.com|
January 10, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s victory over No. 3-ranked Villanova Sunday afternoon at The Pavilion in Villanova, Pa., was the highest ranked team the Mountaineers have ever beaten in an opponents’ home gym.
I can remember back to 1957 when West Virginia defeated No. 1-ranked North Carolina and No. 5-rated Kentucky on back-to-back nights in Lexington, Ky., in the KIT. It was a prestigious tournament and Jerry West was great both nights. He received great accolades from Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, calling him the greatest player to ever play there and that sort of thing.
I don’t know where I put Sunday’s win as far as the best in school history, but it certainly was a very good one. As far as this year goes, I thought the Oklahoma performance was maybe even more impressive. I think that was one of the best efforts I’ve seen from a John Beilein-coached team at West Virginia because methodically they took it to Oklahoma and wore them down and beat them.
On Sunday, West Virginia got behind big in the second half by 15, but they did not give up. I know it’s the seniors but this team has some real cool customers. Nothing bothers them and its starts with Joe Herber, Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey. And J.D. Collins is the glue that keeps it all together. He just gets this team into its offense and he gets the ball where it needs to be.
By my count, there were more than 10 NBA scouts present at West Virginia’s game against Villanova on Sunday and many of those scouts were scribbling furiously in their notebooks after every Kevin Pittsnogle jump hook in the paint or post-up move.
I talked to one prominent NBA personnel man Saturday night in the hotel before the Villanova game and he said he thought there could be as many as six pro players in Sunday’s game. Of the six, he saw as many as three professional players on West Virginia’s team. Of course Pittsnogle and Gansey are going to be in NBA camps this summer with an opportunity to make an NBA team, and he felt that Joe Herber is going to make a lot of money playing professionally in Europe.
My first question to him was to compare Pittsnogle to Marquette 6-foot-10-inch center Steve Novak. He thought Novak was a very good player but in his opinion he thought Kevin was better. Novak is a little smaller but just like Kevin, he’s a great shooter.
Gansey is just everybody’s dream because he is such a great kid and he could wind up being the guy that makes someone’s NBA roster as a 12th man and is competitive every single day in practice because he works so hard.
As for Herber, he said Joe goes back to his country and he makes very good money. He brought up the fact that former Mountaineer forward Marcus Goree is now one of the top European players in Italy making between $400-500,000 a year.
Marcus has always had his sights set on playing in the NBA and this scout told me he didn’t have to come back to the States because he was making a terrific living in Italy.
Former Mountaineer forward Tyrone Sally is averaging 3.7 points per game for the Roanoke Dazzle of the NBA Developmental League. Sally has appeared in all 17 of Roanoke’s game and recently scored a season-high seven points in a 121-105 loss to the Fayetteville Patriots.
There was a point in the Villanova game when Kevin Pittsnogle took a shot from the corner that looked like a throw -- he caught the ball and shot it all in one motion. But believe it or not, he practices that quick catch and release shot everyday in practice. The main thing is when he does it his shoulders are always square to the basket.
Kevin is not trying to get into position to take a shot: he is already there and he is square even before he receives the ball. He’s always had tremendous range and now he’s developing a jump hook. I think another point to consider in Sunday’s game was that Kevin had a couple of shots blocked and up until this season he would have gone into the tank for about 15 minutes.
But he came right back down, with 6,500 people all over him, and grabbed a rebound right away and he did not let those blocks affect him at all.
For those of you that have already bought your tickets for tomorrow’s Georgetown game, I can tell you that you are going to see one heck of a basketball game. The Hoyas are flying under the radar with a 10-2 record that includes a pair of Big East wins over Providence and St. John’s heading into Wednesday night.
John Thompson, III is a tremendous coach and he’s got an outstanding group of players in forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bowman, and 6-2 guard Ashanti Cook. I promise you the Mountaineers are going to have their hands full with the Hoyas tomorrow night.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006