CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The top two finishers at the 2012 West Virginia Conference Tournament used opposite paths to their destination.
West Liberty won a second consecutive WVC regular-season title and tournament crown last season, doing so with the prominant use of four-year players. The University of Charleston - which lost to the Hilltoppers in overtime in the tournament championship - was using a slightly different method toward sucess.
UC Coach Mark Downey - who had guided Arkansas Tech to a 30-2 record in 2009-10 - doesn't mind taking the junior college route.
Downey's biggest transfer to date made his first appearance in uniform on Saturday night against Ohio Valley when Robbie Dreher was ruled eligible to play by the NCAA.
Dreher is quickly getting accustomed to the competitiveness of the WVC, admitting that he's "getting tired of hearing about" West Liberty even before playing his first game.
Dreher had been practicing with the team, but wasn't able to suit up because he was considered a double-transfer, leaving Winthrop University - which he led in scoring in 2010-11 at 12.7 points per game - and Marshall, which he left because his father was ill.
The 2009 graduate of Southside High School in Greenville, S.C., hadn't played since March 11, 2011, when he was on the floor a team-high 36 minutes and scored 13 points in Winthrop's 78-73 loss to VMI in the 2011 Big South Conference Tournament.
"I've just tried to stay focused and practice before every game like I was going to play," Dreher said. "I knew in time they would call and say I was eligible. Coach told me he would get me eligible and I believed him and he did."
The 6-foot-4 Dreher will provide some of the highlight reel plays that 2011-12 WVC Player of the Year P.J. Reyes did and much of the toughness the team missed last season as UC hopes to penetrate West Liberty's recent league dominance.
"Robbie makes us a lot better, we have different components now," Downey said. "We're more like them. Everybody on the floor can shoot the 3, we have a dynamic point guard (Terrell Lipkins) that can score and Robbie gives us that athletic wing that can score and do a lot of different things."
It's something of a new beginning for Dreher, who pleaded guilty to a 2011 assault after being accused of raping a woman on her on-campus apartment at Winthrop. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to one year of probation.
In his first action on Saturday night against Ohio Valley, he had 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 24 minutes of a 90-70 win over the Fighting Scots.
"It's a fresh start," Dreher said. "Joining a great program, a winning program. I think we could do some special things."
As for his off the court conduct, Dreher said he's learned a lot and is moving forward.
"I think there's trouble everywhere, it depends on the people you surround yourself with and the things you do," he said. "It's a part of growing up also and I've done that and helped me become a better person outside of basketball."