There are days when a point guard playing under West Virginia University women’s basketball coach wonders why she decided to do what she’s doing.

There are, after all, more pleasurable ways to spend your time rather than playing the point under coach Mike Carey. You could walk on broken glass, get a kidney transplant without an anesthetic or simply eat razor blades.

“I am tough on point guards,” Carey admitted while sharpening his claws before a practice this week.

This is especially true this year as he tries to get a true freshman ready to run the point for his Mountaineers this year, a year where WVU comes into the Big East a mystery team, extremely young but extremely talented.

However, to make the talent gel, one needs to have solid play at the point, which brings us to Akeema Richards out of the Baltimore area, a young lady who has all of the things Carey wants in a point guard.

“First, the point has to be athletic, able to ignite the fast break and play the defense,” Carey answered when asked what he wanted in a point guard. “Second, she has to be under control and be able to set the other players up. Third, she has to be able to hit a shot. She has to be able to score a little and get the other girls involved.”

Richards has the potential to do all of that, but that word potential infers that she is hardly ready for that yet.

“It usually takes a year,” Carey said. “As the games go by she’ll feel more confident.”

Right now, though, as the Mountaineers get ready for an exhibition on Nov. 8 at home against Glenville State, she is going through what Carey calls “growing pains.”

“It’s tough,” Carey said. “She had an off day, a rough practice. I’m tough on point guards.”

Having ridden her hard, as Carey is so adept at doing, he called her into his office after practice to give her the class known as Mike Carey 101.

“Mentally, they have to be able to take me,” said Carey, whose style is more Bobby Knight than Gladys Knight.

That means they have to take the introductory course, which he was able to administer.

“If I’m yelling at you, you can’t shut down,” Carey said. “I want you to listen to what I say, not how I say it.”

It is the words, not the volume, that matters.

Richards’ introduction to Carey’s coaching methods was not lost on her. She remembers what went on out there as her mistakes mounted.

“I kind of gave up on myself,” she said. “I wasn’t listening to what he said and it kind of reflected in my play. It won’t happen again.”

She understands the role of the point guard.

“Basically, I’m the coach on the floor. I’m basically him out there,” she said.

Because of that she has to know not only what Carey wants, but what he is going to want in the future.

“I have to stay focused, stay calm,” she said. “High school was more laid back. This is more intense, but I’m not being asked to do things I haven’t done before.”

There are differences, of course, especially defensively. Carey wants to push his defense hard and then he wants to run the floor. It is a fun style of play, but one that Richards is going to have to grow into one step at a time.

“He has high demands for his point guards,” veteran team leader Liz Repella said. “It’s hard the first couple of weeks for a freshman, but he makes it easier. After practice, he’s easy to talk to. He makes you a better player.”

The 5-9 Richards came to West Virginia with a strong resume, including 1,200 high school points at Western High and Baltimore Player of the year.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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