It sounds like an easy proposition: stop by during the offseason, play some basketball games at The Basketball Tournament and compete for $1 million. Except, it’s apparently not that simple.
“I always teased John [Flowers] about it, I’m like, ‘It can’t be that hard, you just ask people to play, and they just play,'” said forward and co-founder Kevin Jones. “No, it’s really a grind of trying…to find the right pieces, availability, people who actually want to play. So it was just a mix of all of that that came into play.”
Jones, Flowers and coach James Long set out to build a vision for their team, aiming to earn wins on the court while still maintaining a West Virginian identity.
“Both of our stubbornness was because we cared so much about putting a good product out there and really representing West Virginia still,” “There were times where we could have really gone away from it, and we were like, ‘No,’ and there were times where there was maybe a West Virginia connection, but we were like, ‘Does this make sense for the roster and the dynamic?'”
The summer tends to be the offseason in most leagues around the world, but that doesn’t mean each player has an open schedule. Nearly all of Best Virginia’s members play pro basketball outside of their home country and had just finished their seasons. Upon returning home, many had an array of options: take the summer off to spend time with family, recover from any possible injuries, sign a summer contract or, of course, compete at TBT.
Best Virginia had guys all over that spectrum as they tried to build the team. Devin Ebanks, for example, finally gets his first shot with the team after scheduling conflicts prevented him from joining the team in prior years. Even this year, Jones said, it was difficult for Ebanks to make it work, but he did for 2022.
Jermaine Haley weighed his options right until the deadline. He came off a recent title season in the NBLC with the London Lightning and intended to play with Best Virginia, but he wasn’t sure if TBT would conflict with his summer engagements. 15 minutes before the deadline, Haley called Long and officially took the final roster spot.
Like any team in free agency, though, Best Virginia didn’t hit on all its targets.
“We had a guy that we were really excited about that we felt could have really helped this roster,” Long said. “He committed to play for us then the next day signed a summer contract in New Zealand.”
Through all the head-butting, nail-biting and near-signings, both Long and Jones are confident in its make-up.
“I think both of our stubbornness helped us get the team that we have now, and I’m excited about it, man,” Jones said. “We both, I think, completed the vision that we had for this team.”