Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

Quinn Slazinski will have an additional ‘fire’ within himself in facing Pitino, St. John’s

MORGANTOWN — It would be easy to say Quinn Slazinski is playing with a chip on his shoulder, yet that doesn’t quite cover it all.

The way the WVU senior forward sees his situation this season, it’s more than just simply trying to prove something to himself, another coach or to, well, everyone else.

There is a level of play he strived to reach, yet it never seemed attainable for so long, somehow dangling just out of his reach no matter what Slazinski did.

He left his Texas home when he was 15 to seek a better high school basketball opportunity at Huntington Prep. COVID-19 sort of derailed his plans at Louisville, and an injury kept him saddled at Iona.


“This is something I know I could have been doing the last couple of years,” Slazinski said Thursday, in reviewing how he’s the Mountaineers’ leading scorer at 16.3 points per game. “Not saying that in an arrogant way, but I’ve worked my butt off my whole life.”

Finally that work is showing up on the court, and we are seeing Slazinski at his full potential.

“I’ve been playing with a lot of emotion my whole life for the love of the game,” Slazinski said. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I feel like I haven’t got out of the game all that I want. I’m kind of playing mad; mad at how things went at Louisville and mad at how things went at Iona.

“Just kind of playing with anger, and if you channel that in the right direction, it can really turn a player and give him superpowers. That’s how I like to view that competitive edge.”

Which sets up the story quite nicely, as the Mountaineers (3-3) are set to host St. John’s (4-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the annual Big East-Big 12 Battle.

St. John’s coach Rick Pitino will be making his first visit to the Coliseum since 2012, when he was still coaching Louisville.

He spent the last two seasons coaching Slazinski at Iona, which is all the reason for Slazinski saying, “I’ve had this game circled on my calendar for a long time.”

That is not to be read as Slazinski trying to settle some old score, as if this was some old western from the 1960s.

“This isn’t me against Rick Pitino,” he said.

Truth be told, if St. John’s roster wasn’t as deep as it currently is in Pitino’s first season at the school, it’s not lost on Slazinski he could very well be playing against the Mountaineers today.

That was his original thought last spring. Pitino took the job and moved on from Iona, bringing some of his players with him.

“Looking at (St. John’s) roster, they already had 14 guys who had played 20 minutes a game,” Slazinski said. “Pitino was well aware of my goals and what I wanted in my career.

“It’s tough getting yelled at from someone like that and also splitting minutes with someone. I was going to play for him in my fifth year, if it meant I would have a huge opportunity. That was a way, I feel like me, mentally, would be able to play for him.”

The opportunity to play major minutes came from WVU.

“It was my decision to come here and have the opportunity I have,” Slazinski continued. “The time I committed to West Virginia, (it) was already missing (forwards). It was a no-brainer.”

And so Slazinski will be looking for those superpowers Friday as an edge for victory. There will be plenty of familiar faces going against him.

Not just Pitino, but assistant coaches and former teammates, some of whom were former roommates with Slazinski at Iona.

Pitino brought to St. John’s from Iona, “The whole coaching staff and about four or five players,” Slazinski said. “It’s going to be good to see them. The trainers, they brought everyone. I’m going to see if their trainers will tape my ankle before the game.”

Slazinski used the word “fire” to explain what will be inside him. He’s already proven to be an emotional voice and player on the court this season.

To be on the safe side, WVU head coach Josh Eilert spoke with Slazinski about keeping it at a fire and not letting it rage into something more.

“We’ve already had several conversations,” Eilert said. “Quinn’s passion can be a double-edged sword. I love guys who play with passion and intensity.

“What I’ve told him is keep that passion and intensity within your teammates. You do that, you’ll be just fine. It’s going to be an emotional game for him, I get it. We just need to channel it in the right direction.”


WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: WVU Coliseum
TV: ESPN2 (Comcast 28, HD 851; DirecTV 209; DISH 143)