MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Former Mountaineer John Flowers always envisioned staying connected with his teammates and other WVU men’s basketball players from different generations.
That sparked the idea for an alumni game, and with the help of Dave Ryan and Greg Richardson, Flowers brought it to life.
Former WVU greats from all eras came together for some friendly, and entertaining, competition. Fans got to see some of their favorite players from years past don the Gold and Blue once more all to benefit local charities.
Seven years later, that alumni game has grown into a team representing WVU at The Basketball Tournament. Best Virginia will compete in its third TBT this summer.
“I give him [Flowers] so much credit because he’s trying to build a brotherhood between all the guys who graduated and the guys who are still playing now,” said Kevin Jones, who is a founding member of Best Virginia.
But if you ask Flowers, WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins is the “mastermind” behind it all.
“He opened the door for us to always come back. He built us an alumni locker room for us to work out in and train during the summer. He’s always had open arms for his guys to come back home. I’m just following in his footsteps,” Flowers said. “I took what he gave us and tried to build on top of that as far as building an alumni team, having an alumni game every year and giving back to charity.”
Last month, Huggins was announced as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022. He will officially be enshrined in September.
As someone who played on the 2010 Final Four team and has stayed in Morgantown long after his Mountaineer career, Flowers has known for a while that Huggins is more than deserving of a spot in the Hall. He was there to witness many milestones that paved the way for the honor, but Flower credits Coach Huggins for teaching him so much more than just basketball.
“It’s not about the x’s and o’s and winning basketball games. For me, it’s more about him turning boys into men. Teaching boys who are coming in at 17, 18 years old and teaching them how to survive in this world, not just the basketball world,” Flowers said. “As we know, a lot of guys don’t make it to the NBA or play professionally, so what is there after that? Huggs teaches accountability. That’s the one thing I took from him.. and yeah, he’s won a lot of basketball games, as well.”
Jones, who was also on the Final Four squad, had the same reaction to Huggins, the fourth-winningest head coach in Division I men’s basketball history, earning a spot in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s way overdue. Everyone knows how good of a coach he is and the legacy he is leaving behind. He’s still in his prime and he still has more to go to be left on his legacy. For me, to be able to play for a Hall of Fame coach, especially a guy who always has open arms for his players and makes us feel welcome when we come back,” he said. “That’s big for alumni because I know a lot of guys who I’ve played with that don’t have the same reception when they go back to the school they played for. I appreciate him and the better man and player he’s made new throughout the years.”
For two players who were part of one of the most successful teams in WVU men’s hoops history, what they learned from their head coach transcends the basketball court. Best Virginia is proof of just how influential Huggins still is in their lives.
Now, they are doing what they can to turn those life lessons into a fun experience for the fan base that has supported them over the last decade.
“It’s great to stay in West Virginia and interact with the fans and keep this brotherhood. You can’t take it for granted other schools don’t have stuff like this,” Flowers said.