- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coming out of high school, Joe Alexander had one offer to continue his basketball career — from Frederick Community College.

In his year at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, Alexander estimated he averaged less than two minutes a game.

But that season has helped Alexander become West Virginia’s top scorer. Alexander leads the Mountaineers against Arizona in an NCAA tournament first-round game at Verizon Center tonight.

I definitely needed it, he said yesterday of the prep school experience. I got a chance to compete every day against good players, and that’s always helpful.

Three years later, that extra seasoning is paying off. Alexander has flourished in coach Bob Huggins’ offense, pacing the Mountaineers in scoring (16.8 points a game) and also averaging 6.1 rebounds. His scoring average has jumped from 14.2 in the last month thanks to four games of at least 29 points.

The kid who grew up 35 minutes away in Mount Airy, Md., and couldn’t draw a lot of college interest comes home as a star player.

Pretty sweet, Alexander said.

That phrase couldn’t be used to describe Alexander’s first two seasons at West Virginia.

Freshman year: Played 36 minutes, scored 13 points.

Sophomore year: Started every game and averaged 10.3 points but saw playing time and production drop when he and then coach John Beilein disagreed on Alexander’s dedication to weight lifting. Beilein wanted him to cut back.

But Beilein left for Michigan. In came Bob Huggins.

I thought I would fit in perfectly, he said. I didn’t know what he wanted to do, but I knew he wanted guys who would work hard and be athletic and liked to play.

Once practice started, the transition was difficult.

I don’t think it suited me originally, but it suits me now because I’ve been learning it throughout the season and he’s been helping me, Alexander said. I’ve been turning corners all year. It’s been steady growth. Recently, I think I’ve come on because I’ve started slowing down.

If there was a defining point, it came in West Virginia’s eighth game when Alexander scored 26 points against Duquesne. He followed up with games of 20, 4, 20 and 21 points. In being named first-team All-Big East, Alexander was held under double figures only three times in 20 games (including the Big East tournament).

Alexander hasn’t had to complain about not getting shots. He’s averaging 13.6 attempts a game.

They’re going to go to him, and we know that, Arizona interim coach Kevin O’Neill said. If you watch their games from the middle of the year on, the players — if somebody’s hot, they’ll find him. They don’t mind giving it up and making the extra pass.

Said Mountaineers center Jamie Smalligan: In the last few years, we weren’t used to having a guy who could pound it in the paint for us. Joe’s always been working on being a reliable scorer, and we’ve been working on getting the ball to him in positions where he can score.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide