MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Regional is underway in Charleston and the Flying WV’s are out in full force.
The Basketball Tournament is taking place at the venue for the second straight year and attendance is expected to supersede 2021.
“It was a great crowd last year, but it’s a bigger crowd this year. I think we’ve sold 4,000 tickets already so it’s going to be a great turnout,” Best Virginia co-founder and player John Flowers said after the team’s exhibition game last Sunday.
“It’s always great to play in front of Mountaineer fans. They are amazing. Some of the best in the world.”
The atmosphere at the WVU Coliseum is something former and current players always point to as a reason they chose the program for their collegiate careers.
“For me personally, I think West Virginia has one of the best college fans bases out there. That’s probably the reason I went there. Growing up, I watched WVU a lot before committing and I always noticed they had a good crowd. Obviously, when I got to experience it, it was second to none,” Best Virginia forward Devin Ebanks said.
With the first round of TBT being held in Charleston, it provides the players an opportunity to get back in front of the fan base that has continuously supported them long after their WVU careers ended.
“It’s always good to play in front of West Virginia fans. That’s the main reason I’m doing this,” Best Virginia guard Juwan Staten said. “I’m not really playing anymore but I love the fan support. It’s fun. It’s a good way to go out.”
Staten, who played at WVU from 2013-15, has been on the Best Virginia roster for all three of its TBT runs.
He’s experienced just how passionate the fans are when it comes to watching some of their favorite players lace them up again.
For Ebanks, a member of the 2010 Final Four team, it’s been a lot longer since he’s played in front of the home crowd.
”I’m just happy to get in front of those fans again. I’m sure the support is going to be good. I’ll be happy to see them. I know it’s been a long time since they’ve seen me and I’m anxious to show them another side of my game,” he said.
Eight of the 11 players on the Best Virginia roster are WVU men’s hoops alum. The remaining three members did play their collegiate careers in the Mountain State, just not in Gold and Blue.
Tanner McGrew, a West Virginia Wesleyan graduate, may not have had Mountaineer Nation cheering for him back then, but as someone who grew up a WVU fan, he knows just how far that support truly goes. In the exhibition game at Fairmont State, he experienced it first hand.
“It kind of brings a little bit of emotion to me when I see the fans,” McGrew said. “I love the West Virginia camaraderie and the support they give this team. Anybody who does anything for West Virginia, the fans love you, and that means a lot.”
McGrew also experience playing at the Charleston Coliseum as that is where the Mountain East Conference Tournament is held. Sunday will be his second appearance inside the arena, but he’s expecting a completely different experience.
As a WV native, he grew up as a member of Mountaineer Nation. Now, he will get his “bucket list opportunity” of playing in front of it.
“I say bucket list — that was never on my list because I never thought it was a possibility,” McGrew said.
“I’ve watched games and how they interact with the players. The commitment they have to WVU sports is obviously amazing. I’m really excited to just hopefully feel a little bit of that love and be able to reciprocate that back to them, and let them feel that I am putting out the effort for something they care so deeply about.”
The West Virginia Regional tipped off at 2 p.m. on Sunday and plenty of Gold and Blue filled the seats on the broadcast.
Best Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the region, will close out the opening day. It clashes with No. 8 Virginia Dream at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.