MORGANTOWN — Will The Basketball Tournament become TNT for a group of West Virginia basketball alumni who have formed a team for the TBT 5-on-5 basketball tournament which offers a $2 million winner-take-all prize?
The Best Virginia team is made up of players from WVU’s 2000 Final Four team and the Press Virginia team, along with former first round draft choice Joe Alexander. Most of the players played recently in John Flowers’ Alumni Game at Fairmont State.
Making up the team are Flowers, Alexander, Nathan Adrian, Da’Sean Butler, Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones, Jaysean Paige, Tarik Phillip, Greg Richardson, Juwan Staten and Devin Williams. Jarrod West is slated to be the coach.
The field for the tournament is 64 teams and it is causing at lot of interest across America as it is set up like the NCAA tournament with WVU playing in the Richmond regional. The team has been training in Morgantown at the WVU basketball facility.
Why do they come back? WVU coach Bob Huggins jokes that its due to his “effervescent personality,” and has thrown his support behind the formation of this team to play in the tournament.
“I like it,” said Huggins at his Wednesday press conference. “They have a guard and four guys who can play multiple positions. I told John Flowers it’s very similar to our Final Four team. We didn’t have a big. Ebanks was 6-8, but they were all interchangeable parts. We just had Truck and Mazzulla alternating at point guard. “
Huggins has spent time with the players, and it adds to the experience his team is going through as it begins working out.
“Joe Alexander was down there talking about how they are going to guard ball screens,” Huggins said. “It’s fun having them around. A lot come around anyway, but one of them said ‘I should have come back here every summer.’ They have their own locker room, training room. They have a guy who worked in the NBA for two years who knows what he’s doing in the weight room. It’s perfect for them. They have a hot tub, a cold tub.
“They have everything they need. They can come here and work out. They can come here and live. It’s great for our guys to come in and see them work out. We had former guys in here at 7:30 in the morning and a couple stayed around for two and a half hours of our practice.”
The team won its first exhibition game in Beckley, 118-80, over a team of all-stars from that area and it will play one more exhibition in Martinsburg. Jones scored 24 points and Adrian posted 19 in the victory.
By the way, Morgantown will host a regional in this tournament in 2020.
Huggins looking for big things from Emmitt Matthews
Emmitt Matthews showed tremendous growth as a freshman.
He finished the year with a flourish after languishing on the bench for much of the season, and Huggins is expecting a big jump this year.
“Emmitt is, to this point, the most improved guy we’ve had in a long time,” Huggins said. “He’s playing extremely well. I think he’s grown a little bit, added some weight and his skill level has really improved. He’s obviously put a lot of time in.”
Logan Routt back on scholarship
Huggins put Logan Routt back on scholarship this spring, leaving the Mountaineers’ coach one shy of the limit of 13.
The 6-11 Routt was a walk-on when he arrived from Cameron, W.Va. and earned a scholarship, but he gave it up last year to allow Huggins to recruit another scholarship player.
“(Routt) deserves it,” Huggins said. “He’s been on scholarship before. He’s had other (academic) scholarships where he had his tuition paid for. He’s never been without aid. This is a lot more comprehensive aid with the athletic scholarship than the other.”
Routt already has begun work on his master’s of business administration.
“You talk about a guy, he’s always been like, ‘Coach, if you need a scholarship, that’s fine,’” Huggins said. “He’s never felt neglected or left out or pouted. He’s been great.”
What’s the point in a new 3-point line?
Huggins doesn’t see the game of college basketball changing just because the 3-point line is being moved back this year.
“I don’t think it makes that much difference,” Huggins said. “You want to understand [what I mean], go in and watch us warm up in [Madison Square] the Garden. Every one of the guys is shooting from beyond the NBA line. I don’t think it’s that big a deal. It’s not that far.”
There has been criticism that, with the way 3-point shots have been falling, that those shots have take over the game. Some feel moving the line back will open the floor more to make driving to the basket easier.
“You think six inches opens up the floor? Do you think a foot does? I don’t,” Huggins argued. “You can’t open up it more in the corner. You see more guys standing out of bounds now shooting 3s than ever. I don’t ever remember playing here three years and having a guy step out of bounds shooting from the corner, and we had some clumsy guys.
“That’s what the line has done.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.