Commentary

Alexander mulls NBA draft or 'glory time' at WVU

Originally Published: June 4, 2008
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Joe Alexander is an almost-certain lottery pick if he stays in the NBA draft.

He knows it. He believes it after being one of the 15 players selected for the physical-only portion of the pre-draft camp last week at Disney.

But if there is any slither of hope for West Virginia's staff, players and fans, it's because of the faith Alexander has in the Mountaineers for next season.

"I think they have a legitimate shot at winning it all if I do go back," said Alexander last Friday prior to his first workout at the Milk House on Disney's Wide World of Sports campus in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "There really is a great opportunity waiting for me if I go back. With me, they'll have a great team. They'll have a great team without me."

Alexander, who said he grew up in a comfortable financial environment, isn't running to the NBA for the money. If anything, he's heading to the league because his draft stock is hot right now, so much so that he is a potential selection for New York at No. 6 (he is scheduled to work out for the Knicks) and a real player for Milwaukee at No. 8, the highest likely spot he could go.

[+] EnlargeJoe Alexander
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesJoe Alexander has plenty of reasons (i.e. dollars) to go to the NBA, but he knows the Mountaineers could compete for a national title if he returns to school.

Unlike a year ago when Yi Jianlian had to be convinced to go to the Bucks, Alexander covets being selected by Milwaukee. He was due in to work out for the Bucks on Wednesday.

"I really like Milwaukee, and I think I'd be a good fit for them," said Alexander, who said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins told him to find a spot that fits so that he can get the playing time to be productive. "When I look at the way I played at the end of the season, I look at that as my game now. It wasn't just a fluke. I know what I can do. I can play with anybody at any time and have enough skills to go with anyone. I think I can make an immediate impact."

Alexander finished the season on a tear, scoring 32 points in a loss at Connecticut, 32 in a win over Pitt, 29 at St. John's, 22 over Providence in the Big East tourney, 34 in a win over the Huskies the next night in New York and then 22 a week later in an NCAA tournament second-round win over Duke.

He seemingly found ways to score all over the court.

"I knew this was possible, I just couldn't imagine that it would happen this fast," Alexander said. "I expected it, but not until my senior year."

The reason for the quick transition was the benefit of combining his knowledge of offensive moves -- especially without the ball -- from former coach John Beilein and toughness and defense from Huggins.

"It prepared me for this, just knowing even if I didn't pick up as much from Beilein as I should have, I can now recognize different styles of coaching, different approaches to winning," Alexander said. "Sometimes you have to go to extremes like Huggins and an extreme like Beilein."

Alexander said Huggins brought the toughness out of him "like he did with a lot of other guys by cursing at you every day. If you don't do it, then he would punish you and belittle you. But it's good. It's what you need. He's a master at bringing out toughness."

Huggins' coaching style was what pushed Alexander to be a potential lottery pick. Moving from Huggins to Scott Skiles, who is known for his tough demeanor, at Milwaukee wouldn't be a difficult transition at all.

But just when you're all but sure that Alexander is staying in the draft, he hits you with the prospect of returning to Morgantown.

"What people don't realize is that when you jump to the NBA, it overshadows the downside of leaving your school, leaving your friends and a team you committed to," he said. "If I didn't like my coaching staff, it would be easy. But I honestly like my coaching staff."

And Alexander truly believes the additions of Scouts Inc.'s fourth-rated recruiting class -- Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Roscoe Davis and Darryl Bryant -- and returners Joe Mazzulla, Da'Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff make the Mountaineers a national threat.

"Getting to the Sweet 16 was huge and beating Duke added flavor to it," Alexander said. "It was fun to go out there and have everyone look at us as underdogs, like they always do at West Virginia, and then to once again pull it off."

Beilein took West Virginia to the Sweet 16 in Alexander's freshman season (2005-06) and the NIT title in 2007 before Huggins took over when Beilein left for Michigan.

"I feel like this is the start of the glory time for us," Alexander said. "They're going into their best years of the basketball program, and that definitely helps me sleep about leaving. I think it's obvious with Huggins being there and the recruits they've got. But he didn't have to start from scratch. We already had a good team. There's no downtime for West Virginia. It's ready to blow up right away, starting next year."

And, according to Alexander, it will blossom again with or without him. But if he gets sentimental sometime before June 16, the deadline to withdraw from the draft, then maybe a possible national title run would be worth the NBA wait.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com