MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — If you closed your eyes for just a moment, it was 2010 all over again, or maybe even 2015 inside the West Virginia basketball practice facility Monday.
Maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be — at least on the outside looking in — as Best Virginia put together a practice it hopes will soon lead them to a $2 million payday come Aug. 6 in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) in Chicago.
Juwan Staten threw passes to Da’Sean Butler. Devin Williams and Kevin Jones worked as a tandem trying to find some open space near the rim. John Flowers guarded everyone. Nate Adrian didn’t miss a single 3-pointer during scrimmages. Truck Bryant and Jaysean Paige ran weave drills together.
Billy Hahn, now decked out in a gold T-shirt and flip flops instead of his patented black turtleneck and dress pants, screamed about bad passes.
“The best time I’ve ever had coaching in my life,” the former West Virginia assistant said.
You ask him why, “Because these guys don’t have egos,” Hahn quickly replies. “They come out here and play like pros and they’ve built a great chemistry together.”
For those unfamiliar, the TBT is a winner-take-all summer tournament featuring an NCAA-tournament style format in which the winner advances and the loser goes home.
Best Virginia is a collection of former WVU alumni players, with much of the credit going to Flowers for pulling them all together, that will begin play at 3 p.m. Friday in Richmond. The eight regional winners advance to Chicago for the championship rounds.
Best Virginia plays Seven City Royalty, a collection of former Old Dominion players, with the winner likely meeting up with Overseas Elite — the four-time defending TBT champion — in the second round on Saturday.
Only in this summer tournament setting can some of Bob Huggins’ best players from a span of his 12 years at West Virginia get together to create the ultimate what-if fantasy scenarios.
“We’re all human, so of course we’ve all probably had that in the back of our minds a little bit,” said Staten, the point guard who helped usher in the “Press” Virginia era during the 2014-15 season. “You can’t get caught up in all of it. We’ve still got a job to do.”
That job is taken very seriously. Practices are filmed and then broken down during team film sessions.
“They’re a little different now than when we were in college,” Paige said with a smile. “Guys are pros now, so we all speak up and discuss things a little bit. In college, Coach Huggs was the only one talking during film.”
Best Virginia’s opponents’ games will also be filmed for detailed scouting reports.
Jarrod West, himself a part of WVU history with his bank shot that propelled the Mountaineers into the 1998 Sweet 16, is charged as the head man in charge of this Mountaineers’ fantasy team.
“The thing that really struck me from the beginning is how coachable they all are,” West said. “No one is trying to be the top guy. They’ve all bought into what we’re trying to accomplish and they listen to what we’re trying to tell them.”
To be sure, some kinks still need to be worked out — “The biggest thing right now is just getting everyone used to playing together and with each other,” Jones said. — but there is a sense of a high-level of confidence.
“I think if we can get past our first game, then everything will be fine,” Paige said. “Once we see how everything sort of fits together, I think we’ll be pretty tough to beat.”