Capital Classic women: WVU's Palmer growing up, learning
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kevin Jones has been pretty good for West Virginia this basketball season. The senior leads the team - and the Big East Conference - in scoring, rebounding and double-doubles. He also helped draw the leading scorer on the women's team to campus.
Sophomore Taylor Palmer is averaging 13.5 points per game for Coach Mike Carey's Mountaineers (12-5) as they enter tonight's 7 p.m. Capital Classic against Marshall (12-4) at the Charleston Civic Center.
Palmer and Jones went to New York's Mount Vernon High.
"I talked a lot to Kevin when I was down to the final few schools, and he told me all about the school," Palmer said. "I think the best part about coming here was I knew I had somebody here basically looking over me. K.J. is like a big brother to me."
The 5-foot-9 Palmer averaged 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game and was third team All-State and once a MaxPreps national player of the week as a senior at Mount Vernon. She played for Patrice Wallace-Moore, wife of WVU Hall of Famer Lowes Moore, who also played at Mount Vernon.
"We have lots of ties with Mount Vernon, so we used those as much as we could," Carey said. "They're putting out Division I players every year and on both sides - men and women. When I was coaching on the Division II level (at Salem), I had two men's players from Mount Vernon."
This year, the men's team starts Jabarie Hinds, a freshman from Mount Vernon.
"If you grow up in that town, basketball is something you just do when you're young," Palmer said. "You're either at the Boys' Club or at the park somewhere playing basketball. And it gets you out of trouble. Mount Vernon is becoming a place now where if you're not on the right track, you can end up doing something you shouldn't be."
Palmer was on the right track right away this season. She played in 31 games last season and averaged 7.5 minutes and 2.7 points, but didn't get a start until the 2011-12 opener. Palmer scored 33 points and made eight 3-pointers against Youngstown State. She's had five other games with at least four 3s.
For the season, she's made 43 3s, but has also tried 137.
If the Mountaineers play a few postseason games, she'll probably set the school record for 3-point attempts (267). If she gets on a roll, she could set the record for makes (94).
Lately, Palmer has struggled, and in five Big East games she's 6-for-32.
"Probably 8 out of 10 misses are off to the left because of her footwork," Carey said. "That's something we're trying to correct."
It's something opponents are trying to prevent.
Palmer was averaging 17.5 points per when WVU started Big East play at Syracuse Dec. 7. The Orange forced her into 4-for-16 shooting. She managed 10 points and she's had 8, 2, 7 and 13 points in the past four games, all back in the Big East.
"It's part of growing up and learning how to play the game and how to be a great player at this level," she said. "People are going to know who you are and they're going try to stop what you do. It's up to you to do better."
Palmer hasn't stopped shooting. She took 12 shots and tried eight 3s in Saturday's loss at Providence. Palmer was 1-for-8, but 3-for-4 inside the line and 4-for-4 from the foul line.
"I kind of let the game come to me and I was taking open shots and taking my time, but when they saw me hitting shots in the second half, they kind of rushed out to cover me," she said. "Instead of me taking my time and relaxing, I rushed some of my shots a little bit.
"One thing I have to do is if they're running at me, take one dribble and pull up or kick it to someone else or get to the basket and either shoot it or swing it to someone else."
Carey wasn't upset with Palmer's shot selection and he let her play 34 minutes, which is just about normal. Palmer contributed four rebounds, two assists and two steals and Carey will keep running Palmer out there.
That's how he coaches and that's how these Mountaineers play.
Center Asya Bussie is shooting 58.8 percent from the floor and averaged 12.9 points. Center Ayana Dunning averages 7.6 points and shoots 83.8 percent at the free throw line.
They've taken the third- and fourth-most shots on the team, which opens the perimeter for Palmer and others, though Palmer has made almost half of WVU's 88 3.s.
"Make no doubt about it - teams extend a lot more on her now. But she'll be the first one to tell you she's had some great looks and they just haven't done down," Carey said. "I tell her she can not worry about that and can't let missing a couple shots affect her game. If she keeps defending and passing and rebounding, the scoring will come.
"There are times she gets frustrated with her shooting and I have to take her out, but only because she's not working on the other end, not because she's missing shots. I'll never take someone out because she's missing shots."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142.