MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Players who have played for Bob Huggins share a bond.
That bond is a similar type of playing style and toughness that only comes from “The Bear.” Some know it as a “treadmill mentality,” whereas others know it as the West Virginia way, or just simply as Huggins’ style of coaching.
That’s why, even though Best Virginia co-founder Kevin Jones gives John Flowers credit for turning the WVU alumni team into a reality, Flowers calls his former head coach “the mastermind” behind the whole thing.
Following Saturday’s pre-TBT scrimmage, it was clear that the bond was still there for these former Mountaineers.
“We haven’t played with each other in years, but I’ve seen these guys overseas, and played against [Kevin Jones] a number of times as a pro,” said former WVU forward Devin Ebanks, who is playing with Best Virginia for the first time this summer. “We just fall back to where we were at 10 years ago at West Virginia.”
Flowers echoed that, saying he enjoys being on the same court with his former teammates once again.
“It’s great to just be able to play with them again,” said Flowers. “My Final Four teammates, you know. So, it’s awesome. It’s amazing.”
With the addition of Ebanks, three fixtures of the 2010 Final Four team are back together on the court.
Among the other six players currently on the Best Virginia roster, four more played for Huggins at some point.
Juwan Staten played at WVU starting in 2012 and wrapped up his collegiate career two seasons later. Fellow WVU guard Jaysean Paige shared the Coliseum floor with Staten during the 2014-2015 season, which was a year before Paige turned into the best sixth man in the Big 12 Conference. D’Angelo Hunter (2017-2018) and Jermaine Haley (2018-2019 through 2019-2020) donned the Old Gold and Blue in the following years.
“That’s the best part of it. Getting to link back up with guys from the program. Guys that I didn’t get to play with, guys I played with,” said Staten, who is back for his third summer with Best Virginia. “We all played for Huggs, and we all played in this program. So, there’s a couple things that we all kind of added to our game while we were here that we kind of made it a part of our game.”
Ten years passed between Ebanks, Flowers, and Jones’ run to the Final Four, and Haley’s last game with the Mountaineers. But with “Huggy Bear” still in charge on the West Virginia bench, similar characteristics shine through a WVU player no matter when he played for Huggins.
“You got to have a little toughness to you, a little chip on your shoulder when you’re playing for West Virginia. That’s just our style,” said Ebanks. “It’s been like that for the last 10 to 12 years. It’s just good to see that that’s still going on.”
WATCH: Best Virginia players and head coach James Long react to Saturday’s scrimmage win ahead of TBT start
Ebanks said he has crossed paths with various former WVU players while playing overseas.
While Flowers hasn’t suited up with or against former Mountaineers as often as a professional, there’s one thing that brings all of these players together.
“We didn’t play with Juwan, we didn’t play with Jaysean, but we’re all brothers,” said the Best Virginia small forward. “It’s a brotherhood. We all played for coach Huggins.”
The West Virginia Regional of The Basketball Tournament will begin on Sunday, July 24 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in Charleston, West Virginia.
TBT games will be televised on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.