With the number of alumni teams in this year’s The Basketball Tournament (TBT), fans tuning in may look forward to simply seeing their favorite stars reunited on the same team once again.
This season, Best Virginia — a collection of some of West Virginia hoops’s best stars of the last 15 or so years — is looking at TBT as more than a reunion. See, Bob Huggins and his staff have emphasized over the years the concept of “family,” something that his former players take seriously.
“Other guys from other teams I know do the best they can to get their guys to come back. It’s important,” Da’Sean Butler said. “You know, Coach Huggins got in and was really pushing to bring the alumni back to the university…to make them feel welcome. So we’ve been coming back.”
While Huggins may joke that his players come back because of his “effervescent personality,” one could argue that they are still a part of the program despite having graduated. With the amount of time alumni spend in Morgantown, it leaves a lasting impact on the Mountaineers that are currently enrolled in the program. On top of that, they have their own alumni locker room and access to the team’s facilities where they can train on their own.
“Coach Huggins built a kind of fraternity where all the guys can come back and feel comfortable working out, and the younger guys can come asking for support and advice,” Kevin Jones said. “We can share our experiences with them. It really is a brotherhood and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
While training and practice are obviously important, they can’t lace their sneakers up and run it back at the Coliseum. In order to do that, they formed Best Virginia and entered TBT.
Best Virginia is a Mountaineer all-star squad of sorts, featuring some of the biggest names in recent West Virginia basketball history. The announced starting five for their opening game spans multiple eras of the program with Juwan Staten, Jaysean Paige, Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Williams.
On the bench will be some familiar names as well — including John Flowers (the team’s player/GM), Nathan Adrian, and Elijah Macon. Former WVU assistant coach Billy Hahn will be coaching, as will former guard Jarrod West.
As the fourth seed, their first game is against no. 5 Seven City Royalty, which is made up of mostly Old Dominion alumni. Their biggest test, though, may come the following matchup against Overseas Elite, who has won TBT in all four years they’ve competed with a perfect 25-0 record.
With a $2 million winner-take-all payout for the champions, there is quite a bit on the line.
“For me, [TBT] is kind of like the NCAA Tournament all over again, you know. Just of a bigger magnitude and for $2 million, so that’s self-explanatory,” said Juwan Staten.
While some of Best Virginia’s players are excited to simply compete against other teams, others know that they have a shot to take some silverware home — something they hope the fans would like to see as well.
“That’s something we’ve been looking forward to,” Staten added. “We feel like we have a great team that can compete and can win it, so we just want to come out here and give it our shot.”
Best Virginia tips their run at TBT off on Friday at 3 p.m. in Richmond, and the game will be streamed live on ESPN3.