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Zone defense & Zoom recruiting, Mike Carey’s 20th season at WVU could look different

(Mike Carey preseason Zoom conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Few words need to be spent about how different 2020 has been from any other year than this — Mike Carey is considering using a zone defense when his WVU women’s basketball team takes the court this winter.

“I don’t like to play zone,” Carey said. “I say we will put a zone in and we will probably use it two minutes the whole year.”

With a program built on a ‘Physical for 40’ mantra and man-to-man pressure defense, Carey can see some value in experimentation.

“I thought about the old John Beilein 1-3-1. They used to run that great. Just to give a different look.”

West Virginia is set to officially open preseason drills for a season that at least as of now, doesn’t have a completed schedule.

“I have become a lot more patient. You have to be very patient this year.”

The Mountaineers are coming off a 17-12 season that never reached an on-court conclusion due to COVID-19. Four of five starters return after the departure of Tynice Martin. Leading scorer Kysre Gondrezick is back after averaging 15.3 points per game in her junior season.

“We need a great season from her this year. She has come back in great shape. When I talk to the strength coach, she is first in everything. On the floor she is out there going extremely hard everytime. Her work ethic is great. It is contagious. When your best players are your hardest workers, it is contagious to the younger players. Between her, Madisen Smith and K.K (Deans), the permitter players are working great.”

Kari Niblack was the only player to start all 29 games last season. She will anchor the frontcourt after averaging 10.3 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game last winter.

“I think we are deeper this year in the paint. We added Ariel Cummings. We have Blessing Ejiofor back. We have Rochelle Norris back. We have Kari and Emery (Martinez) back. Sometimes this year, I think we will be able to put Esmery out on the perimeter and we’ll have decent size.”

Three transfers signed with WVU during the spring signing period. They are guard Jasmine Carson (Georgia Tech), forward Ariel Cummings (Chipola C.C.) and Jayla Hemingway (Mississippi State)

“Three of them never even visited here before they signed. That was… unique. I probably did a better job recruiting on Zoom calls than I did if they came here.”

Nitra Perry is the newest member of the WVU coaching staff. She has served as the associate head coach at Toledo for the past two seasons.

“Other than me, we are very young on the coaching staff. So I wanted to get somebody with more experience, a role model and a mentor for the players. I think Coach Perry fits all that. She has been a head coach, an associate head coach at a couple places. She played at Mississippi State and coached there and played overseas.”

With in-person recruiting effectively shut down since March, Carey is pleased to have his next recruiting class (2021) in place.

“AAU teams and tournaments are putting it online and we are buying it. So we are able to watch those games but it is not the same as being there. We were very fortunate. We have four verbaled in the 2021 class. So we are done in the 2021 class. We are moving on to the 2022, 2023 class now.”

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