The Basketball Tournament will make its return to Charleston for the second straight season. The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center will once again be the site of the West Virginia Regional.
Both of the state’s Division I programs will be represented in Best Virginia (WVU) and Herd That (Marshall). They are the regional co-hosts while the six remaining teams will be announced at a late date.
Last summer, the squad made up of primarily WVU alumni advanced to the final game of the West Virginia Regional, coming up just shy of a spot in TBT Championship Week. Kevin Jones, founding member and player, credits the home-court advantage for Best Virginia’s run.
“For me, it’s definitely a motivational factor and something that helped us in the tournament during the games,” Jones said. “Especially during the tough times where we were down or in the Elam Ending where we might be struggling. It was such a great turnout in Charleston and I’m excited to see the same or more this summer. I think it helps us with the recruiting of the team, as well. We will have it in our back yard and they won’t have to travel to another region.”
While playing in the Mountain State is enticing for the players, there are a number of other factors they have to consider before making their commitment.
“The roster is coming together,” Jones said. “It’s kind of hard because everybody is finishing up their season or are already home with their family and not thinking about basketball at this point. We are trying to give guys time to rest, reflect on their seasons and then reach out to the guys we want. If we can get some of the people we are going after, I think we will have a really good team and really good shot to win the money.”
Jones has taken the lead on recruiting but he also falls under that same category. He played the 2021 season in Japan for the Hitachi Sun Rockers who just wrapped their season last week.
He is one of three players who are currently on the Best Virginia roster. General manager and player John Flowers is also returning along with Jaysean Paige. Flowers most recently played in France for Boulazac while Paige saw a stint with the Maine Celtics in the NBA G League back in March.
Former Mountaineer guard and WVU Tech men’s basketball coach James Long will be the Best Virginia head coach for the second straight year. Long said the roster not being finalized is “a little uncomfortable” right now, but he’s focused on how he is going to manage it once it is complete.
This time around, he wants to find the balance of using players based on their recent professional stats and how well they are playing in TBT.
“As coaches, you like to lean on experience and trust, and there’s not much of that in TBT. We had a two-week build-up leading into that [last year] and we didn’t have continuity going into it, so just kind of went off some of that preparation within the two weeks,” Long said.
“There were times I needed to be better in terms of going game to game, who was playing well, and having a better feel for the moment. It’s tough. There are a lot of different things going through your mind and there’s no room for error. If you lose and make a mistake, you don’t get to do it over that year.”
Paige is the most recent addition to the growing lineup. This will be his second run in the tournament after making two appearances in 2019. He was initially on the 2021 roster, but his professional career came calling.
“Jaysean has always been a proven scorer ever since college. We are excited to have him. He was one of the guys we knew we wanted to get back, especially after last season since he wasn’t able to join the team,” Jones said. “He already has Elam Ending experience from our first year playing and he did well. I look forward to those same results with him. We know what he can do. He has confidence in himself and we have confidence in him.”
Jones said Best Virginia does have a few other commitments but they plan on announcing them weekly on the team’s social media pages.
The 2021 Best Virginia roster: Nate Adrian, John Flowers, Chase Harler, Jonathan Holton, Kevin Jones, Jamel Morris (Fairmont St.), Teyvon Myers, Tarik Philip, Logan Routt, Alex Ruoff and Juwan Staten.