Mountaineer Basketball History Reunites in Morgantown - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineer Basketball History Reunites in Morgantown

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia's basketball history will be proudly displayed in the new practice facility's Hall of Champions with photos and memorabilia that take fans down memory lane.

But why settle for reminders of the great players to wear the Mountaineer uniform when you can see them in person for yourself?

On Saturday, decades of WVU basketball history walked onto the court at the Coliseum, a floor that some never played on, while others knew it only in its formative years.

One by one, they were welcomed as their names were read for the gathering fans to recognize the program's alumni and show appreciation for all they accomplished in their time at the University.

The names were familiar, even if some of the faces have grown and faded from memory, and the applause that greeted each was an indication of how special an event like this reunion can be – not only for the people on the court, but for those in the stands as well.

A year ago, many of these same former student-athletes took part in this halftime show, but were introduced only as groups, separated by generations. Fans who sat in the upper bowl would likely have cheered with no real idea of who they were cheering for.

But this year, each person – even former managers or team trainers – got his individual honor.

From Willie Akers, representing the 1950s, to the thunderous applause that came with John Flowers' appearance, history and tradition walked across the carpet that had greeted them all in the prime of their careers.

"This is absolutely great," said Levi Phillips, a senior in Bob Huggins' first year at WVU. "I think Bobby Huggins is one of the best coaches ever, but I think one of the best things he's ever done is pull all of the former players and people associated with the basketball program back together. It's just one fantastic thing."

Some people, like Akers who lives in Logan, get to be around the program quite often, while others only get this one chance to return to their alma mater. With the help of the Varsity Club's Dale Wolfley, each of these men can come back to the place they once called home and see how it has grown over the years.

"These people are the people that have missed so much. I've been a part of the program, but now they want to be a part," says Jay Jacobs, who does color commentary for the basketball games. "I was talking to [2003 graduate] Josh Yeager, who played several years ago and he said, ‘All I want to do is be a part of it now. I want to be a part of what's happening here.'"

Yeager, a Belington native, grew up idolizing the Mountaineers he read about or heard playing on the radio or on television. On Friday night at the Waterfront Place Hotel, where the alumni gathered to spend some time together, people he once looked up to surrounded him.

Only now they were his peers.

"It's kind of surreal," says Yeager. "I've had a chance to interact with guys that I was a little kid asking for their autograph. Now seeing them in this kind of setting, them giving me the compliment of we enjoyed watching you play, you're a solid player – that's the highest compliment that I could ask for. They respect you for going through the same things they went through."

As the years go on, more players will be added to the list and each one will then share the story of the fun they had back in Morgantown for the weekend with other alumni who will join the event the following season.

These players, many of whom are just now reuniting with the program after years away, are grateful that they have this avenue to allow the memories to come flooding back. It's something they feel is long overdue.

"Absolutely. I didn't know that I did, but once it happened, once Bobby started bringing everybody back, I don't know why we haven't done it for years and years and years. I think it's just a fantastic thing," says Phillips.

While they were on campus, the former players and staff members had a chance to tour the basketball practice facility and see amenities they could have only dreamed to have worked with when they played at WVU.

As they walked back outside facility, they passed the Hall of Champions, many of their own accomplishments proudly displayed on the walls and in cases around them.

A museum with the sole purpose of honoring those who had just passed through its doors.

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