MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Growing up in Buckhannon, Tanner McGrew was raised on WVU hoops. He and his friends idolized players like Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla.
Since there are no professional sports teams in the state of West Virginia, to McGrew and the other kids, those guys were the pros.
Flash forward about a decade later, and his familiarity with Mountaineer basketball goes far beyond just growing up a fan. McGrew now finds himself in the same gym with those guys he grew up watching on TV as the latest addition to the Best Virginia roster.
“When I first got the opportunity, it was hard for me to see myself as their equal. Over the years, it’s been my goal to just keep that confidence and consider myself at the same level,” McGrew said. “Just to play on the same team as them knowing how I grew up and everyone around me, like I said, idolized those guys, it’s really special for me. It means a lot that they invited me on and hopefully, I am able to contribute.”
McGrew played his collegiate career at West Virginia Wesleyan before seeing a stint in the NBA G-League and playing overseas.
His professional career has made him both a teammate and opponent of former Mountaineers a time or two. When that pro career is on hiatus, he spends the summers working out with current and former members of the TBT squad, especially Kevin Jones.
“I do everything I can to go up against Kevin as often as I can because he’s so talented. it’s good practice for me and I get the opportunity to test myself a bit and get better,” McGrew said. “As often as I can I’m in the gym with them. They are my connection up here. They are how I get in and get my work in the summer, so I do as much as I can to be around them.”
Next month, McGrew will officially compete alongside some of his former idols in a familiar place. The West Virginia Regional will take place July 24-27 at the Charleston Coliseum. Playing in the Mountain East Conference, McGrew has taken the floor in Charleston before, but in July, he will get the opportunity to experience it in a different capacity.
“Of course I’m excited about playing there, especially in front of the WVU fans. That’s the big bucket list thing, and I say bucket list — that was never on my list because I never thought it was a possibility,” he said. “I’ve watched games and how they interact with the players. The commitment they have to WVU sports is obviously amazing. I’m really excited to just hopefully feel a little bit of that love and be able to reciprocate that back to them, and let them feel that I am putting out the effort for something they care so deeply about.”
Fans can get their first look at Best Virginia on July 16 when it hosts an exhibition game at Fairmont State University.