Bob Huggins emphasizes the concept of “family” to his players, both past and present. Whether it’s sticking together or simply “being around the guys,” as former player John Flowers puts it, West Virginia basketball prides itself on being a tight-knit community.
This theme has been put to practice on the court for the last five summers in the form of the WVU Basketball Alumni Game, which is taking place this year at Joe Retton Arena at Fairmont State University.
“It’s about eight or nine of us around every summer, so we just wanted to do something,” Flowers explained. “We just thought of something to do that we can do that we can get the fans involved and the people involved, all the while giving back to a good cause.”
In the first four editions of the game, Flowers says over $25,000 was raised for various charities. This year, the proceeds will benefit the West Virginia Special Olympics, and he anticipates sending $5,000-$7,000 their way.
Stars from several decades of Mountaineer basketball have made appearances, and this year’s lineups won’t be much different. Fresher names like Jaysean Paige, Elijah Macon and Brandon Watkins will make appearances alongside Darryl Prue and Herbie Brooks. Members of the legendary 2010 Final Four team, such as Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones are also expected to play. all, Flowers says that 25-30 players will be at the game.
Last year saw the blue team defeat the white team in a 127-113 barn burner in which Jaysean Paige scored 57 for the winning side.
Besides giving back to the community and putting on a show for fans, there is another purpose for this event. Many of the participants in this year’s game are also a part of Best Virginia — a squad of Mountaineer alumni that is set to compete in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team, winner-take-all tournament with $2 million in prize money. Flowers, Paige, Jones and Butler are on the roster, as well as several other fan favorites. Their opening matchup is against Seven City Royalty, a team made up of former Old Dominion players, and it will be broadcast on the WatchESPN app.
This year’s game tips off at 7 p.m. tonight at Fairmont State’s Joe Retton Arena.
“The fans should come out and watch because it’s a good event, great family event,” Flowers said. “Get autographs from players you haven’t seen play in a while…and I, for one, like playing in front of fans, especially the West Virginia fans.”