BUCKHANNON - Former West Virginia University basketball standout Patrick Beilein will make his head coaching debut tonight when West Virginia Wesleyan entertains Shenandoah University for its season opener at 7 p.m.
The 29-year old mentor is going to battle with a roster that is vastly different from last year's Bobcat unit. But the group has embraced the same two-guard offense that Beilein himself utilized to drain a total of 242 three-pointers and score over 1,000 career points as a Mountaineer.
With Beilein's pedigree as a former WVU star, it is noteworthy that several of the key players on the 2012-13 Wesleyan unit are state natives. But it is Ohio native Kelsey Williams who has been the leader of the young squad.
After averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game last season, the strong and athletic post player will be counted upon heavily by Beilein for production on both ends of the court.
"Kelsey has been a tremendous leader of this team," Beilein said. "He is a hard worker and he has also been much more of a vocal leader as we have gotten further along in practice."
Williams is particularly key, because the team is so young. In fact, only five players return from the 2012 roster, which includes only 25.6 of the 73.9 points per game, and only 12.2 of the 35.8 rebounds per game. The bulk of these numbers coming back belong to Williams.
Beilein's installation of the two-guard offense has been a key element in the early weeks of practice. He has been joined on the bench by Coach Will Vergollo, who served under Beilein's father John Beilein at the University of Michigan for six years. The staff has been working to find the shooters who can fit this system and defend at a high level.
"I have been very pleased that how they have picked up the concepts that we have been trying to teach," Beilein said. "This is a timing and read based offense and it relies a lot on on-court chemistry. I think the players have done a good job of developing that as we have gotten deeper into practice."
Williams is joined in the starting lineup by strong group of shooters. This group includes Preston County native T.J. Thompson (6-5, Jr.) at the power forward spot and Denmark native Soren Dossing (6-1, Fr.) at small forward and shooting guard.
The backcourt includes Bronx, N.Y., native Ray Warren (5-9, Jr.), and Logan native Noah Cottrill (6-4, Fr.).
The former Division I recruit, Cottrill led Logan High School to a state title his senior year with the Wildcats.
Currently, Beilein has three players factoring into his regular rotation from the bench.
The most experienced of this trio is Winfield native Caleb Ashley (6-4, Sr.), who comes off the bench as a shooting guard.
He will be joined in that role by the program's first major Michigan connection in Detroit native Chris Dewberry (6-1, Fr.). Providing some bench minutes for the inside players will be Morgantown native Taylor Price (6-5, So.).
Shenandoah provides an interesting first opponent for Wesleyan. Its style of play will be a large aspect of the opener.
"They run the Princeton style of offense and with that they do a nice job of spreading the floor and beating you with cuts to the basket," Beilein said. "It will be a good challenge for us in terms of a season opener."
For Coach Beilein, it will be a career opener into the head coaching profession.