Huggins camp has Beilein flavor
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - They came from various areas of the country and the world this past weekend to be a part of another one of the fantasy camps Bob Huggins has presented throughout his tenure as West Virginia's basketball coach.
There was Alex Ruoff and Mike Gansey, Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler, all on hand to be coaches at the camp.
This, of course, was at the end of a week where former 1,000-point scorer Patrick Beilein was introduced as the head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan. He's merely next in the line of the John Beilein- recruited players who has and expects to have a future in the intellectual side of the sport.
"There were several players from that time that we felt could be really good coaches and Patrick was one of them," said John Beilein, the Mountaineers coach from 2002-07 and now in charge at the University of Michigan. "I think the key for those teams was we had some very bright kids playing for us."
Many of them have been invited back to the Huggins camp, which makes sense because Huggins wants not only for his campers to meet their heroes, but to learn how to play the game. Patrick Beilein, Kevin Pittsnogle and Frank Young have appeared in the past. Ruoff, Alexander and Butler have made multiple appearances. Gansey has never missed the fantasy camp.
The legacy of those John Beilein teams may be the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearances and the NIT Championship in succession from 2005-07, but the way they played the game and thought and planned their way to success ought to be just as relevant.
Many of the players from those teams no longer play, but remain involved with basketball because of their acquired abilities.
"With my two years playing, we just all knew how to play the right way because Coach Beilein was such a good coach," Gansey said. "We embraced that like sponges learning the things we did and I think we all learned so much from it that we use it our own way now."
Consider the senior class from the 2005-06 team that lost to Texas in the Sweet Sixteen. Patrick Beilein has the first head coaching gig in the group, which surprises no one.
"Pat's got it in his blood, in his genes," Gansey said. "He did a lot while he was playing. He had a say in scouting reports here and there. Everyone knew he always wanted to coach."
Gansey never really considered coaching. He played domestic and international basketball until this season and now works in scouting for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He'll help with workouts the team conducts before it does what it can with four picks in this month's draft. Jarmon Durisseau-Collins conducts basketball workouts. Kevin Pittsnogle got into teaching and coaching.
"We didn't have the most athletic group of kids, but we had the kids with the biggest hearts who just wanted to win and who learned how to win," Beilein said. "We knew what we had to do. I could score two points and I was still happy because I knew how to do the other things to win."
The fifth senior that year was Johannes Herber, the extremely intelligent guard who is still playing back home in Germany. Just about everyone who was around him while he was at WVU said he'd make a great coach.
"Johannes was probably too smart to get into coaching," John Beilein said.
"He could probably run a country," Ruoff said.
Darris Nichols was a reserve in the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen years and a starter his final two years. He's now an assistant at Northern Kentucky, which will make its Division I debut in the fall. Joe Mazzulla and Rob Summers were backups on the NIT title team. They're assistants at Glenville State.
Then there's the next wave. Beilein said no freshman ever picked up his offense faster than Butler, who played in every game as a freshman in 2007 and averaged 10.1 points in 23.8 minutes off the bench. He actually cut into Alexander's playing time a year before Alexander's game exploded and launched him into a NBA lottery pick.
Butler is still chasing his NBA dream and still battling his way back into familiar form following his knee injury in the 2010 Final Four.
Alexander, who reached an injury settlement and was released by his Russian club this past season, was and still is a bright player who grew up abroad and learned multiple languages. He was a late bloomer who didn't have the benefits of a full high school career in Frederick, Md., and needed a year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, but he picked it up quickly enough to get a scholarship at WVU.
Then there's Ruoff, who Huggins thinks could one day be the best of the bunch he's coached at WVU.
He's been playing in Belgium, but tore an ACL in November. He was cleared to resume full basketball activities Friday morning. Ruoff is a free agent and figures there won't be a lot of interest because of the injury and the time missed. He hopes to sign on somewhere in Belgium, likely with the same Belgacom Liege club.
Still, he knows the time is coming when he'll have to think about a new career after his playing career.
"The day that I stop playing, I'm getting right into coaching," he said. "My confidence tells me I'd be pretty good. I had really good teaching. I got real lucky. I had a good middle school coach with a nice basketball IQ. My high school coach used to be a college coach. Then I had Beilein and Huggins. You had to be an intelligent player to understand how to play for both of them. All of that helps out with my background."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.