CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The lessons Joe Mazzulla and Cam Thoroughman could have delivered to young campers at the South Charleston Community Center are numerous ... like what it takes to get to an NCAA Final Four.
Perhaps the one the West Virginia University graduates and basketball players didn't discuss - but certainly have lived - is this:
Sometimes to make it in Almost Heaven, you have to go through hell.
"What we've been through, a lot of it is like a dream come true," Thoroughman said. "But there's more than that. Joe and I have both been through injuries, serious ones. It's been a battle in a lot of ways."
Mazzulla and Thoroughman spent part of their Wednesday at South Charleston High Coach Vic Herbert's camp. The kids that surrounded them knew them as Mountaineer basketball players.
They didn't view the duo as the lone survivors in the program from a bloated 2006-07 WVU recruiting class - perhaps the largest and maybe the most successful in program history.
There once were eight of them who signed on for what became John Beilein's last season before the coach moved to Michigan and Bob Huggins' homecoming changed more than the tenor of Mountaineer hoops.
"That was only about 100 years ago, it feel like," Thoroughman said.
Da'Sean Butler, Wellington Smith, Jonnie West, Devan Bawinkel, Jacob Green, Dennis Gagai, Mazzulla and Thoroughman made up that recruiting class. Butler, Smith and West graduated and moved on. Mazzulla and Thoroughman graduated - and didn't leave.
They'll be fifth-year players in 2010-11, with 107 victories and counting.
Bawinkel left for a junior college and then moved to Iowa. Green transferred to Fordham. Gagai, an invited walk-on, dropped to Division II at Northern Kentucky.
"I don't think we could have known in any way or ever even imagined all we've been through," said Mazzulla, the point guard with the repaired - and still rehabbing - left (shooting) shoulder. "You come to terms with what's there. You deal with it on the spot.
"I think Cam and I have done that. You just have to trust, and hope you're trusting the right people. When Huggs came in, he told us what he thought, and we needed to trust him and his people. It goes back to trust ... your teammates, the people in charge."
Thoroughman and Mazzulla have both morphed as players. The 6-foot-7 Thoroughman was brought in from Ohio as a shooter in Beilein's perimeter-oriented system. The 6-2 Mazzulla was a penetrating point guard and scorer who's big advantage was being left-handed.
Now, Thoroughman - who has overcome two left knee surgeries - is a banger, a rebounder, a "garbage man" in the best sense. Mazzulla not only became WVU's best defender since Huggins' arrival, but he also taught the coach the basic tenets of Beilein's 1-3-1 zone.