MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jarrod West and Dave Tallman have coached teams to high school state championships in the past three years. Tallman guided Morgantown to their first Class AAA state title with an undefeated season in 2016. West led Notre Dame to the Class A crown a year later.
This summer, they will team up to lead a team of WVU Alumni in ‘The Tournament’. The TBT, as it is also known, is a 64-team single elimination tournament with a $2 million, winner-take-all prize.
Former Mountaineers have discussed the possibility of entering a team in the TBT for the past few years. Team general manager John Flowers has built relationships with former players through their annual alumni game every summer.
“John is a great ambassador for the school in keeping all the alumni involved,” West said. “We have become pretty good friends. At last year’s alumni game, he said, ‘We’re going to get it this year (2019),’ and I said, ‘Let me know and I’ll be ready.'”
“I love the team they put together,” Tallman said. “You have a little bit of everything. You have a bunch of professional players on that team that are still playing today. It is a bunch of good guys and a bunch of guys that come back to the (WVU) practice facility in the summer and work out together so I think the chemistry will definitely be there.”
Tallman was Flowers’ assistant coach at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Maryland in 2007.
“We have become good friends over the years,” Tallman said. “He lives in Morgantown over the summer. I was at his wedding last summer. He has stayed at my house a couple times during transitions when he was coming back from playing overseas. We’ve had a real good relationship for about ten to twelve years.”
Ten players are listed on the Best Virginia roster. Nine are still playing professionally. Tarik Phillip signed with the Washington Wizards in April. Flowers, Da’Sean Butler, Joe Alexander, Juwan Staten, Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones, Jaysean Paige and Devin Williams will join Morgantown High School grad Nathan Adrian on the team.
“We have a good mix of younger guys and older guys so I am excited to coach all of them,” West said.
West is well-known for his game-winning shot against Cincinnati in the second round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, sending the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16.
Many of the players developed in West Virginia’s ‘Press Virginia’ defense in recent years and West says that success in the tournament will hinge on how well they can guard.
“We will have it (pressure defense) in our back pocket,” West said. “If we don’t have ten guys that are defensive minded, we will not win this tournament. Talking with John, we are not going to have any egos. People just want to win.”
“I think if we take care of rebounding like Huggins’ teams do, value the ball on offense and take good shots, I think we have a chance.”
“The nice thing is these guys are all going to know the West Virginia system,” Tallman said. “We’ll have Coach (Billy) Hahn there so it won’t be hard to get them on the same page.”
Morgantown High School graduate Greg Richardson completes the four-man coaching staff. Coaches and players will meet next week to map out practice schedules and discuss style of play.
Best Virginia is the No. 4 seed in the Richmond regional. They will face Seven City Royalty, an alumni team from Old Dominion in their opening game on July 26. A potential second-round meeting with No. 1 seed and defending champion Overseas Elite awaits.
“One game at a time,” West said. “We’ll deal with that if and when we get there. I have been to the state tournament as a favorite and lost. I have been to the state tournament as an underdog and won.”
Team members will participate in the annual WVU alumni game at Fairmont State University on July 6. Exhibition games will follow in Beckley on July 11 and in Hedgesville on July 13.
“This isn’t about moral victories. If you win it, you win the money. If you lose it, you get nothing,” West said.