Best Virginia, the WVU men’s hoops alumni team that was slated to make its second appearance in The Basketball Tournament, has withdrawn from the competition after multiple team members reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
The team tells West Virginia Illustrated that one player took a test out of precaution and it returned positive. Subsequently, more players took tests and likewise returned positives, prompting the team to withdraw from the competition.
“We dropped out after being told that we had a chance to compete, but would require significantly more testing, and if one more player tested positive, we’d be out regardless,” Best Virginia told West Virginia Illustrated. “So we opted on the side of caution for ourselves and to let another team have time to prepare.”
Before the news broke, the team took to social media to address their fans.
“Like everything, our plans were changed by COVID-19 – in more ways than one. We learned late Thursday that one of our own had tested positive for COVID-19, a test taken out of precaution, though no symptoms were visible,” the team wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Out of an abundance of caution, all parties at our recent practices were notified, as well as the appropriate local health agencies, and our players and staff were tested. We will not be participating in @thetournament this year due to COVID-19.”
Both the team and the tournament expressed disappointment in the news.
“This is a safety-first event,” said Jon Mugar, founder and CEO of TBT. “We’re disappointed for the Best Virginia players and fans that they won’t get an opportunity to compete in TBT 2020, and our thoughts are with the player for a speedy recovery. While the virus remains a persistent threat, we have confidence in our health and safety plan and the many safeguards we have put in place to run this year’s tournament.”
The squad will be replaced by Playing for Jimmy V, which includes former college stars like Josh Perkins, Marques Townes and Haywood Highsmith (a Wheeling Jesuit alumnus). Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is also in the mix as a team booster.
Still, the withdrawal is a sting for Best Virginia and its fans. Ever since their second round exit in TBT 2019, the team says they have been “excited” at the prospect of competing again.
“We are not just sad for our own chances to play, but what this team meant to so many in West Virginia,” the team wrote. “It is the love for the Mountaineers that prompted us to form this team, and keeps us going to play and practice harder and harder.”
Upon the news, Best Virginia urges all remaining participants in TBT to tighten up their safety measures while preparing for the competition.
“We encourage those teams to ramp up their safety measures, lock down their social circles around the team, and get out and play some great basketball,” Best Virginia said.