West Virginia State's Anton Hutchins is fouled by West Virginia Wesleyan's T.J. Thompson on a layup attempt in the first half at Fleming Hall. In the background is State's David Ford.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The last time Noah Cottrill walked off a basketball court in the Charleston area, he had just led Logan to the 2010 Class AAA state championship and brighter lights at West Virginia University were ahead of him.The couple of years since have been as well-documented as they were humbling for Cottrill.While he fell from good graces and eventually left WVU almost exactly two years ago, was an admitted drug addict and had a subsequent arrest in 2011 for possession of a controlled substance, he has made a quiet return to the court this year as a point guard for West Virginia Wesleyan.And on Monday, Cottrill finally got the opportunity to display his skills in the Capital City area once again.
The Bobcats, under the direction of first-year coach and former WVU player Pat Beilein no less, improved to 6-5 on the year as they led from midway through the first half on to take a 70-59 win over West Virginia State in Institute.Cottrill, who celebrated two years of sobriety on Dec. 27, spoke like a man who had learned quite a few lessons and who was thankful for another opportunity."It's been great on and off the court," Cottrill said of his experience thus far at Wesleyan. "Coach Beilein and the staff, the athletic director - they've been great. They've helped me, supported me - they know what I've been through. I heard some comments from the stands tonight but it doesn't phase me at all. I'm a new person."I took about a year and a half off of basketball and I'm still not 100 percent, I'm not the Noah that I used to be, but I'm going to get back to that."
He seems to be well on his way.During the time off, Cottrill's weight rose to as much as 220 pounds but he has knocked that back to 195 now and is averaging 16.1 points per game this season, second-best on the team next to Kelsey Williams' 18.4.Cottrill scored 13 on Monday while Williams, one of the West Virginia Conference's best big men, went for 23 points and six rebounds. But for Cottrill, who still has four years of eligibility, playing is something that can't be measured in statistics."I am an addict and trying to recover from that every single day, one day at a time. It's a humbling experience from not playing for a year and a half," Cottrill said. "I didn't touch a basketball for a year and a half. I was in the dumps. I tried to go to [Michigan] but I couldn't get released and some things happened and I wasn't really ready for that. But I found out I had four years at Division II and that's what I wanted to do."
Perhaps Beilein, who scored 1,001 points in his Mountaineer career, was as much of a story line as Cottrill on Monday.Beilein, son of former WVU and current Michigan coach John Beilein, is trying to put his signature on a program in much the same way his father has at several different places.It doesn't take long in watching the Bobcats (6-5 overall, 3-4 WVC) to see the glaring similarities between the two coaches. The same quiet demeanor, calming presence, and teach-first, yell-later philosophy is evident for fans who've spent any time at all watching Pat's father stalk the sidelines whether at WVU, Michigan or elsewhere.
Beilein admitted he has absorbed all he can from his dad."I want to be calm and composed," Beilein said. "Any time you see a coach that gets sped up and starts ranting and raving, that transfers to the court. I'm a teacher first. I'm not a yeller or a screamer. After a few teaching points, if they don't understand it then you have to raise your voice, but I prefer to teach the game - let them have fun rather than if they make a mistake pulling them out of the game."State coach Bryan Poore, like most people, is probably happy for both Cottrill and Beilein, but Poore was a long way from a smile after watching his team miss shot after shot at the rim on Monday.The Yellow Jackets (5-7, 3-4) scored 105 points in a win over Glenville State on Saturday and it seemed that the return of players like Brandon Ross and Raymon Austin from injuries would signal the end of the offensive woes his team had faced throughout the first half of the season.But while four State players finished in double figures (Jalen Walker 14, Austin 12, David Ford 11 and Anton Hutchins 10), State shot just 35.8 percent from the floor while Wesleyan hit 46.4 percent.Poore said he had an inkling long before the game started that it might not be a good one for his squad.
"I didn't think we had it at shootaround today," Poore said. "I told them at shootaround today that their body language told me they didn't have that same excitement that they had two nights ago. We hadn't played in so long and we'd been back practicing so they were really excited to get to play the other night. And now, you win one and feel good about yourself and they lost whatever that is. They lost it."Whether State was flat, or just not able to make shots or Wesleyan was simply a better team, Monday night in Institute belonged to Cottrill, Beilein and the Bobcats - and Cottrill, for one, was more than happy with the result."It was great," Cottrill said of playing in Charleston. "I had to go into it looking at it like it was just another game, so I didn't get too hyped. But I had a lot of family here, my mom was here who hasn't seen me play in probably three years, so it was a great experience. I cherish it - every chance I get to come down here."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.