The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 18, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: New hoops facility well worth wait

MORGANTOWN — For a while Saturday morning as West Virginia University’s queen of facilities, April Messerly, led the media on a tour of the new basketball facility that borders the Coliseum, there was this awful fear that overcame me.

Here she was showing us these tiered soft, theater-style seats in the film room, 25 of them with enough leg room for even Manute Bol, 103-inch television screens with such high definition that it would knock your eyes out, lockers modeled after the locker provided no less than LeBron James at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility and so many other amenities you wondered how Bob Huggins would be able to create the toughness he demands in his teams.

After all, it’s tough to be hankering for a battle after you sat out on the deck, serenely overlooking the Mon River as it rambles quietly and aimlessly 150 yards or so below.

But then the group tour made a turn into the training room, an area that will be so nice when it is completely equipped that Huggins may have trouble even getting his players out of there. However, looks can be deceiving, for within the training room there is a hydro section, hydro, of course, meaning water.

That houses a built-in whirlpool on one side and on the other a larger, deeper whirlpool ... a whirlpool only Huggins could love, for, as April Messerly described it, it houses an “underwater” treadmill.

Now, true, this allows athletes recovering from injuries to work injured muscles on a treadmill while immersed in water. This piece of equipment was made famous when featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated a while back illustrating a story on “The Rehabilitation of Carson Palmer.”

They advertise this piece of equipment as being able to promote early range of motion in a low-impact environment while improving cardiovascular stamina and increasing the healing and strengthening of injured tissues.

Or, more to the point, Huggins could use it as he uses the one he keeps dry courtside as an instrument of torture for players who do not put out as he would like. Now he can carry it over right into the whirlpool.

We jest, of course, about Huggins turning a piece of equipment intended to rehabilitate injured athletes simply as a tool to toughen them up, but we do so to give you an idea of just how complete and spectacular this facility is going to be when it is opened.

Indeed, you could not ask for anything more, short of golden fixtures, for $24.1 million, most of it from generous donors who want to be part of the success of the basketball program.

The facility is coed, so to speak, for everything the men’s team has, the women’s team has, save for different bathroom plumbing.

In fact, the women actually have one more seat — 26 — than the 25 the men have in their film room ... but, of course, the women are allowed two more scholarships than the men ... sort of a Title IX-plus concession to evening up expenses.

The public will be allowed only into the Hall of Traditions, but somehow it has always seemed a bit overrated the way the public wanted to spend time down in smelly locker rooms anyway. This room is worth the price of admission, which is free, even with the $24.1 million price tag.

It is a beautifully decorated room of murals and memorabilia cases, TV screens and interactive displays.

In one corner of the room is the scoreboard used at the last game played at Stansbury Hall displaying the 29-26 score from the first game played there. They played the kind of defense Huggins loves in those days.

On the other wall is the backboard from the last game at Stansbury.

And no, for you young whippersnappers, there was no peach basket attached.

Almost anything and everything you could think of was on display though, right down to Bob Huggins’ letter jacket ... donated perhaps because he would have a rather difficult time fitting into it these days.

There is an area honoring “WVU Immortals” Mark Workman, Hot Rod Hundley, Jerry West, Rod Thorn, Fritz Williams, Wil Robinson and, yes, Da’Sean Butler.

In one case is an original, type-written manuscript by Jerry West entitled “My First Year in Pro Ball,” a Joe Mazzulla uniform among many unis and letter jackets from different eras on display, a case for women’s basketball, including the pink uniform worn by the Mountaineers in support of breast cancer research and coach Mike Carey’s pink tie, and a huge picture on the wall of Georganne Walls dunking a basketball, she being the first women to ever do so during a game.

Fittingly, the tour’s next stop after the Hall of Traditions was supposed to be the media room, but the door was locked, forcing the ink-stained wretches to enter from the back door.

The teams, of course, are more interested in the basketball facilities, and there are a men’s and women’s gym, each with a full court and a half court on which to practice. The teams will practice there except for the day before games, when they will shoot in the Coliseum.

Each side has roomy office suites for the coaching staffs, individual film rooms for film study, while a state-of-the-art weight room, not yet equipped, and training table are in a shared space.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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