MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Pitt receiver Mike Shanahan was growing up and starring equally in basketball and football, he spent his summers playing AAU basketball in a pretty interesting situation.
Shanahan was AAU teammates with Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin, North Carolina H-back Christian Wilson and Akron's Ryan Walsh.
For a time, they made up the younger team in a program whose top team was made up of some pretty good sports role models: DeJuan Blair, who played at Pitt and is now with the San Antonio Spurs; Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor; St. John's guard D.J. Kennedy; Seton Hall forward Herb Pope and Marshall guard DeAndre Kane.
"It exposed us to a bunch of colleges who were always coming to our games and it basically showed you what you had to do to be successful," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Shanahan, whose Panthers (6-4, 4-1 Big East) play host to WVU (7-3, 3-2) at noon Friday at Heinz Field.
"It kind of showed you what you had to do to be successful."
The game will be televised on ABC.
"Those guys, as you see now - top players on their teams, NBA guys - they really just brought out the competitiveness in you. It really just taught you how to be competitive every day. I loved playing against those guys, and it only made me better and tougher."
Shanahan averaged 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists per game as a senior and 17.5 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as a junior at Norwin High in North Huntingdon, Pa., where he was a teammate of WVU tight end Tyler Urban. Shanahan earned a number of basketball scholarship offers and ultimately narrowed it down to Duquesne and Akron.
Football was his pick, though, and he said he was offered by former WVU Coach Rich Rodriguez and also considered Stanford.
"You get to play guys from all over the country and compare yourself against them and what they're doing," Shanahan said. "You can really use it as a measuring stick. It's just a constant challenge to get better every single day. You can go out and shoot a basketball 100 times and have the same form and feel like, 'OK, maybe I'm doing this just right.' I feel in football there's always something I can do better."
Shanahan has 35 catches for 481 yards and a touchdown, and is the sure-handed possession receiver to compliment Baldwin's deep threat. Baldwin has 42 receptions for 677 yards and five touchdowns.
WVU Coach Bill Stewart, who called Shanahan "one of my favorites in the league," is concerned about Shanahan's productivity in the middle of the field.
"The vertical seams, the shallow and deep digs give us fits," Stewart said. "Mike Shanahan, No. 87, I hope he's not on the receiving end of many of them."
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WVU KICKER Tyler Bitancurt has never kicked at Heinz Field, but the sophomore is prepared for "one of the worst" kicking conditions he's encountered.
"I know what to expect," he said. "The field is not going to be on my side."