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Versatile Ebanks big on the boards for West Virginia

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Devin Ebanks labeled himself “more of a scorer” in high school, but as his freshman season at West Virginia continues, it’s beginning to get tough to describe him as just any one thing.

The 6-foot-9 Long Island City native has become a bit of a utility man this season for Head Coach Bob Huggins.

“I’m just trying to do everything I can, every little way to win the game,” Ebanks said. “If that means I have to bring up the ball, then that’s what it means. If I have to go rebound one game, that’s what it means. If I have to score, that’s what it means. As long as we get a ‘W.’ ”

The former Bishop Loughlin star, who later transferred to St. Thomas More in Connecticut, did a little bit of all of that in the seventh-seeded Mountaineers’ 74-62 win over No. 10 Notre Dame in the second round of the Big East Tournament. Ebanks scored seven points, pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and dished out five assists. His 18 boards are the second-most during the last 10 years at the Big East tournament. Syracuse’s Terence Roberts had 20 in 2007.

“He is a rebounding machine,” said point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant, a former St. Raymond’s star. “Not much else you can say about Devin. He is starting to feel comfortable out there.”

Bryant, with some help from Ebanks, was in the middle of the Mountaineers’ 19-4 first-half run. It put them in total control of the game until the Irish (18-14) cut the lead to seven late in the fourth. Bryant, who had 17 points and four assists, started the spurt with a bucket in the paint and then buried a three-pointer off a pass from Ebanks to put West Virginia (22-10) up 26-6 with 7:09 to play in the first half.

“Bryant was the guy we wanted to play off of a bit and maybe be able to help and he made us pay,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. “He made big shots to start them.”

The 6-foot-2 freshman guard is a part of a quartet of talented Tri-State area players on West Virginia that includes freshman Kevin Jones of Mount Vernon High School and Da’Sean Butler of Bloomfield Tech (N.J.). All but Jones starts.

Next season, they will add another local product to the group in power forward Danny Jennings, who used to play at Loughlin and is now at St. Thomas More. He and Bryant were teammates with the Gauchos AAU program.

“He’s a beast,” Bryant said.

He was also happy to finally have a strong showing at the Garden after a poor one in high school and during a loss to Davidson at the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 9.

“I just felt good to play good tonight and come out with the win,” he said.

Ebanks is hoping for a few more nights like this one as the Mountaineers move on to play No. 2 Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“I finally got a win in this building,” he said. “Hopefully I can get three more wins.”

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