“Best Virginia” To Enter $2 Million Tournament
“The Basketball Tournament” is a 64-team, single-elimination tournament that is open to the public and is entering its sixth year. With support from ESPN, it has picked up some mainstream interest as a source of entertainment through the late summer after the end of the NBA season. Much of the tournament bracket each year is made up of alumni teams from major college basketball programs and after Mountaineer fans clamored for an entry for several years, 2011 graduate and current professional player John Flowers heard the people and organized the team “Best Virginia” which will be taking part in the Richmond regional of “The Basketball Tournament.”
In addition to being the team’s general manager, Flowers is a member of Best Virginia’s roster, but he is far from the only memorable former Mountaineer who will lace up for the alumni team. He will be joined by nine of the most beloved and skilled WVU hoopers of the last decade. In the backcourt, the point guard spot will be manned by Juwan Staten and Darryl “Truck” Bryant. Since ending their outstanding college careers, both have gone on to have prolific careers overseas, with Staten most recently playing in Finland with the Helsinki Seagulls and Truck splitting 2019 between Levski Sofia of Bulgaria, BC Rustavi of Georgia, and Goes Montevideo of Uruguay. At shooting guard, two recent standouts will likely see the bulk of the minutes with Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip joining the squad. Both former Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year winners are still playing today as Paige has spent the last three years with the British Basketball League’s Newcastle Eagles while Phillip played the 2019 season in the NBA G-League for the Memphis Hustle and is currently under contract with Washington Wizards. On the wings, Da’Sean Butler and Flowers both bring extensive experience from both the 2010 Final Four run and their respective pro careers. They are joined by WVU’s most recent lottery pick and a veteran of the European basketball scene in Joe Alexander. Butler has been extremely successful in Europe as well, joining the Israeli Premier League’s Hapoel Jerusalem in 2019 while Flowers hit the court in Argentina for La Union de Formosa and Alexander played his first season in Turkey with Beşiktaş. Finally, three of the most outstanding Mountaineer rebounders in recent memory will hold it down in the paint as Nathan Adrian, Kevin Jones, and Devin Williams will represent their alma mater. Adrian is the only team member not currently playing professionally while Jones plays currently for Japan’s Ryukyu Golden Kings and Williams mans the post for Buducnost VOLI in Montenegro. Best Virginia certainly brings a professional flair to the tournament this year.
This WVU alumni team was seeded fourth in the Richmond regional and will take on Old Dominion alumni team “Seven City Royalty” in the first round. However, if they move on to the round of 32, the former Mountaineers will likely be matched up with four-time defending champions, Overseas Elite. They are led by some names that will likely be familiar to WVU fans including ex-Marshall and Iowa State guard Deandre Kane. The top-seeded Elite are now led by Pittsburgh native and former St. John’s standout DJ Kennedy who has earned Tournament MVP honors twice. The strategy for taking on these challenging opponents will be left up to some notable faces within the WVU and West Virginia high school basketball scenes. The head coach of Best Virginia is Jarrod West, a former Mountaineer point guard and current head coach at Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, WV where he won a state championship with his son, also named Jarrod, in 2017. The lead assistant is Morgantown High School head coach Dave Tallman who also brings a state championship ring into the fold. In addition to those two, former Bob Huggins assistant Billy Hahn will be on the bench for the team while the staff is rounded out by Morgantown native and former coach at New Mexico Military Institute, Greg Richardson.
Best Virginia has a difficult but not impossible path to the finals of The Basketball Tournament. While, the $2 million prize is a powerful incentive, many of these former players are getting the band back together for the opportunity to play with their former teammates and represent their alma mater once again. The Basketball Tournament will begin on July 19 with the Columbus regional while Best Virginia will tip off the very first game in Richmond on July 26 against Seven City Royalty. The regional games will be available on ESPN3. The final, dubbed The Winner-Take-All Championship Game, will take place on August 6 and be broadcast on ESPN.