BTE Mailbag: Wellington Smith Talks Final Four Team, Beilein and a Bold Prediction for This Season

Schuyler Callihan

This evening, we caught up with a member of the 2010 West Virginia Final Four team, Wellington Smith, for this week's Between The Eers Mailbag. We discussed what he currently does for a living, memories of the Final Four team, John Beilein, this year's team an much more. Below is a transcribed version of the interview, with a link of the full interview at the bottom. Enjoy!

Q: What are the biggest similarities between the Final Four team and this year's team?

WS: "I think the biggest similarity is that there is no ego. I think within the Final Four team everyone knew that Da'Sean [Butler] was the guy. The egos were subsided and put by the waist-side and everyone is proud of everyone else for succeeding. Previous teams, Huggs had to deal with egos and had guys that didn't know how to handle success. I think that there is no egos with this team and the fact that they all care, I think is another aspect of it." 

Q: Did you think the turnaround would happen this quick?

WS: "No, I didn't think it would happen this quick. I think when you have an All-American on your team like Oscar [Tshiebwe] changes things and when you put that with a Hall of Fame coach in Bob Huggins, that gets just a little more out of you. And when you put that with guys that care, you get high-charactered people."

Q: Are you surprised how mature this team is considering how young this team is?

WS: It surprises me how the freshman are stepping up the way that they are. It's interesting seeing [Deuce] McBride and what he's been able to do throughout the course of the year. If he stays humble and stays hungry, he's going to be one of the West Virginia greats. 

Q: Who was the best pickup guy from your days at WVU?

WS: "The New York guys love playing pickup, but I would have to say Joe Alexander. All he was known for was playing one-on-one. We'd bring it to the practice facility and just play one-on-one. Myself, Da'Sean, Alex [Ruoff], Joe and others. That's all pickup was, just one-on-one basketball. One-on-five, one-on-four and he used his athleticism. We'd go and work on whatever we wanted to work on that night when we were sleeping at the Coliseum to work on this stuff."

Q: Can you share your recruiting story and how you ended up being a Mountaineer?

WS: "West Virginia was one of the first schools to reach out to me when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a measly letter, but it meant the world to me. Fast forwarding to my senior year in high school, they were still reaching out to me, but it was more on a serious basis and coach Beilein is coming to watch my games. I just fell in love with the fact that they cared about me and my family. When I went to visit the school, I fell in love with the football atmosphere, the team, the facilities - which I thought were amazing at the time, now it's insane. I just fell in love with coach Beilein and what he wanted to do with the team."

Q: What was your reaction to Beilein leaving West Virginia?

WS: I was mad. I was sad, I was disappointed at first. I was mad for quite some time and thought about transferring, but glad I didn't do that and was the best decision I could have ever made. 

Q: Did you ever think John Beilein would be in the NBA?

WS: "You know, I never thought he would be in the NBA. This isn't a knock to him, but I always thought he was a college coach through and through. You see sometimes now where he's probably trying to coach every single possession as you would in college and can in college. These guys in the NBA are getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball and they don't need to listen to a coach. I think he's going to start getting younger guys and a younger team, so he can continue to build a culture."

Q: Which game felt like a bigger accomplishment to you: beating Georgetown to win the Big East Championship or beating Kentucky to go to the Final Four?

WS: "That's a great question. Seeing as how the Final Four is so rare and beating Kentucky was a dream come true, I would say beating Kentucky to go to the Final Four was the more prominent win."

Q: How far do you think this team will go? Not only in the Big 12, but in March Madness?

WS: "I think defense will always have a place in the game. I think they do an amazing job on the boards, they play amazing defense. Where I see them having some hiccups is them scoring the ball and having a guy that can go get a basket for you. It seems like that is going to be McBride, but he's only a freshman right now and to put that stuff on a freshman's shoulders might be difficult. I see them going to a Sweet Sixteen and they'll need scoring to continue."

Q: How crucial is it to have guys like Cam Thoroughman, Nathan Adrian and Gabe Osabuohien for a successful run? Do you see similarities in those three?

WS: "Cam was just a tough, I don't give a F about anything kind of dude. I see that from the guys on the team today and you need some of that. No one else is going to be able to do some of the things that they do and they do it really, really well."

Wellington's bold prediction: 

"I give them a Sweet Sixteen run this year. Next year, I give them an Elite Eight run and Derek Culver leaves after his junior year."

FULL INTERVIEW: https://soundcloud.com/betweentheeerspodcast/wellington-smith-interview

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