8 West Virginia Mountaineers

November 23, 2009

Devin Ebanks was 13 when his mother, Yvonne Jackson, brought him from their Long Island City, N.Y., housing project to Rikers Island, the infamous New York City jail. As a veteran corrections officer there, she was allowed one guest for the facility's annual family-day festivities and decided to expose her son to the inmates and their bleak living conditions. "I didn't want to return," he says. "It looked real tough on the inside."

By his senior year at St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn., Ebanks had become a top prospect prized for his silky midrange game. But the 6'9" wing—who originally signed with Indiana but changed his mind after Kelvin Sampson's ouster—developed into one of the Big East's top rebounders last season, when he led the Mountaineers with 7.8 boards per game and was named to the conference's all-rookie team. "I think people misinterpreted skillful for soft," says Mountaineers assistant Larry Stewart. Adds coach Bob Hug-gins, "Most guys get a hand on a ball and knock it away. Devin's able to tap it back to himself in order to get a hold of the ball."

Ebanks's versatility made him a good fit in Huggins's fast-paced system, but he was more than just another long-armed interchangeable part. He keyed the pressure on defense while playing atop the 1-3-1 zone, frustrating opposing backcourts with his considerable wingspan. "The court just seems smaller against [him]," says Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

In Ebanks and 6'7" senior Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia has one of the nation's top forward tandems. While Ebanks struggled from three-point range last season—shooting 12.5%—Butler picked up the slack. In a win over Villanova last February, Butler had 43 points, including six threes, while Ebanks grabbed 10 boards and scored 16 points. "We mirror each other," Butler says. "I make my reads off him."

If they keep it up, their story could be a must-read this season.

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

Coach

Bob Huggins (3rd season)

2008--09 record

23--12

Big East

10--8 (T-7th)

NCAA tournament

First round

[originallink:10861791:1004237]

POS. PLAYER HT. CLASS KEY STATS
PG Darryl Bryant 6'2" Soph. 9.8 ppg 2.7 apg
SG Casey Mitchell* 6'4" Jr. 20.0 ppg 5.2 rpg
SF Da'Sean Butler 6'7" Sr. 17.1 ppg 5.9 rpg
PF Devin Ebanks 6'9" Soph. 10.5 ppg 7.8 rpg
C Wellington Smith 6'7" Sr. 5.2 ppg 3.8 rpg
KEY RESERVE
G Joe Mazzulla 6'2" Jr. 5.6 ppg 3.7 apg

Returning starter

*Junior college stats

SCHEDULE

Nov. 15 Loyola (Md.)

Nov. 24 The Citadel

Nov. 26 Long Beach State*

Nov. 27 Texas A&M or Clemson*

Dec. 9 Duquesne

Dec. 12 Coppin State

Dec. 19 at Cleveland State

Dec. 23 Mississippi

Dec. 26 at Seton Hall

Dec. 29 Marquette

Jan. 1 at Purdue

Jan. 6 Rutgers

Jan. 9 at Notre Dame

Jan. 13 at South Florida

Jan. 16 Syracuse

Jan. 20 Marshall

Jan. 23 Ohio State

Jan. 26 at DePaul

Jan. 30 Louisville

Feb. 3 Pittsburgh

Feb. 6 at St. John's

Feb. 8 Villanova

Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh

Feb. 17 at Providence

Feb. 20 Seton Hall

Feb. 22 at Connecticut

Feb. 27 Cincinnati

March 1 Georgetown

March 6 at Villanova

*76 Classic in Anaheim (championship game on Nov. 29)

KEY GAMES

Bob Huggins's squad doesn't wilt against pressure defenses, but Villanova's guards will challenge the Mountaineers with the most physical perimeter play they'll see all year. Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler must use their height and length to open passing lanes.

my SI

SI.com/westvirginiahoops

Get the latest and best Mountaineers stories, statistics and fan blogs from across the Web, handpicked by the editors of SI.

PHOTOPORTER BINKSDEVIN EBANKS Though his game is full of finesse, the long-armed sophomore can lay down the law on defense and the boards. PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)