The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 15, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: All-out play of Mazzulla provides boost

MORGANTOWN — If Joe Mazzulla were an animal one suspects he would be best suited as one of those bighorn rams you see high up in the Rockies. If you’ve watched the Animal Planet or Discovery Channel you’ve seen how they react when challenged — just put their heads down and go head-first into their challenger, creating a loud “THWACK!’ that reverberates from mountain top to mountain top.

If he were an inanimate object, one suspects Mazzulla would be cast as a wrecking ball that is swung time after time at a building until he beats it into submission.

But Mazzulla is neither a bighorn ram nor a wrecking ball, but there are times, as they say in the commercial, where he plays one on TV.

This is especially true when it comes to his sideline as a West Virginia student, which is that of playing for the school’s basketball team.

Already in possession of his degree, just three and a half years after entering college, Mazzulla takes on basketball as he took on education — head first. If anything gets in his way, he just lowers his head and goes right at it.

It’s a great trait, if you happen to live above the tree line like a bighorn ram, but there are times when it can be a bit punishing if you happen to be doing it on the basketball court.

Mazzulla missed most of last year because of the punishing style with which he approaches a game where something as harmless hand-check can result in a foul. He tore his shoulder apart in one of those moments of reckless abandon that define his play last year against Mississippi and even now, more than a year later, it remains a sometimes painful distraction.

The result of this is that much of the afternoon when the Mountaineers are playing, Mazzulla is building up energy on the bench. His ability to perform at his best is limited by the shoulder, but it’s sort of like one of those head-butting rams.

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