Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

May 22, 2014

West Virginia women’s hoops making a Big 12 statement

PRINCETON — Mike Carey is a native West Virginian who has been in the coaching ranks for many years in the Mountain State. Last spring the WVU women’s basketball coach was unable to attend the Coaches Caravan in Princeton. Tuesday night he returned and enjoyed the occasion.

“It’s always great to be here. I didn’t have the opportunity to come last year, so I wanted to make sure I got here this year because I’ve got a lot of good friends in this part of the state and it’s great to see them,” Carey said.

Carey and the Mountaineer women are coming off a stellar season in which West Virginia won a share of the Big 12 regular season championship and Carey was named conference Coach of the Year. The team won 31 games and was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“It (the season) was great” Carey said. “Our players did a great job. We had five seniors, which makes it a bit easier to coach when you have five seniors. They did a fantastic job on and off the floor in their leadership roles. We also had some good young players that are coming up through the program.

“We return three starters from last year and we’ve really got to find some bodies off the bench. We lost three seniors off the bench that came in and gave us a lot of experience. We think we’re going to be in good shape. We have some players back and we signed five new players and hopefully we can get two or three of them ready to go by the start of the season. But we’re going to have to blend in a lot of new players for next year.”

Year No. 2 in the Big 12 Conference was a major success for West Virginia and Carey said it is already paying dividends.

“We’re getting in a lot more homes now, recruiting wise. It’s always about recruiting no matter what you do. And being on TV and having a couple of successful games on TV really helped us, especially as we branch out a little bit in recruiting the Midwest, Texas and those areas,” Carey said. “When you’re seen so many times in those areas and you play so many times in those areas, you hope it will help you in recruiting.”

Carey said the biggest challenge he has faced in the move to the Big 12 is a change in recruiting.

“We are getting killed right now by the ACC because most of our players used to come from the East Coast,” Carey pointed out. “With us not playing on the East Coast anymore, a lot of schools are using that against us, so we have to figure out a way to branch out into the Midwest, Texas, those areas.”

WVU’s former conference, the Big East was tough as is its current home in the Big 12. Carey talked about the difference in the two leagues.

“I think the biggest thing is you play everybody twice,” Carey said. “In the Big East you play everybody once and maybe one team twice. In the Big 12 you get a true champion. You play everybody twice. You’re going to play everybody home and away.

“The other thing, from top to bottom the league is really, really good. In the Big East you probably could go in and say ‘Hey, I am going to get three of four wins, I know where I am going to get them.’ In the Big 12 you just never know. Then if you beat them the first time you’ve got to play them the second time and they’re a little mad at you at that time. It’s great arenas, great crowds. I think on the women’s side the last 14 years they’ve led the country in attendance in the regular season. You’re always playing in front of great crowds in great arenas.”

Not only is the scheduling different in the Big 12, but the style of play on the court is a change from what West Virginia experienced in the Big East.

“The Big East, in my opinion, is a little bit more athletic, up and down, a little bit more fast paced,” Carey pointed out. “The Big 12 has a lot of big bodies, a lot of size in the paint and a lot of shooters. Texas started 6’7 inside, 6’6 and 6’4 and then came off the bench with a couple of 6’7s. You just didn’t see that in the Big East.”

Carey enjoys going to the Caravans around the state with fellow WVU coaches.

“It’s always great. First of all we’re pretty good friends, all three of us (Carey, Bob Huggins, Dana Holgorsen), so that makes it a lot better,” Carey said. “We enjoy doing these things, seeing close friends and other people we haven’t seen all year and it gives us an opportunity to talk to some of the fans. It’s a lot of fun and we look forward to it.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com, Twitter @bdtredd

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