West Virginia’s Bob Huggins is currently heading into his ninth season as the Mountaineers head coach. During his accomplished time in Morgantown, Huggins created the ‘Bob Huggins Basketball Fantasy Camp’, where campers age 21 and up have the opportunity to participate in 5-on-5 games, skills competitions and a multitude of drills where they learn from the best in the game, including Huggins himself, members of the West Virginia coaching staff, and Mountaineer athletes from the past and present.
Huggins has recruited a number of former West Virginia alumni back to Morgantown specifically for this event each year. Some of this year’s returning Mountaineers included former basketball standouts John Flowers, Devin Ebanks and Joe Mazzulla from the 2010 Final Four team and former WVU and NFL quarterback Marc Bulger. Dale Blaney, former WVU basketball player and current NASCAR sprint-car driver, was also in attendance.
“It’s great,” said Huggins. “We’ve got so many guys that come back every year and I think it’s their opportunity to come back and bond with the University, so to speak. We get some of the former guys back, which is great, and it’s been a really good deal.”
John Flowers, now an international professional basketball player, is currently a free agent in Europe. Flowers has played in both Japan and France and is on the brinks of signing a new contract with a new team within the month of July.
Flowers was also the mastermind behind the upcoming WVU Alumni Basketball Game to be played at Morgantown High School in August. According to Flowers, a majority of the 2010 Final Four team, including Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler, among others, will be returning to Morgantown to play in the game.
“Seven o’clock, Morgantown High School, be there. It’s gonna happen,” said Flowers. “It’s gonna be a good turnout I think. I got 17 guys coming back. Mike Gansey said he would come back, Joe Mazzulla, a lot of guys from the Final Four team, Cam Thoroughman, Jonnie West,” he added.
Joe Mazzulla has hung up his playing shoes to further his career as an Assistant Men’s Basketball coach at Fairmont State University, just miles down the road from Morgantown.
“It’s a great opportunity and being removed from West Virginia University and Morgantown, now, for about five or six years you really start to develop that nostalgia and what everything meant,” said Mazzulla. “When the opportunity presented itself to come back and to really give back to Coach Huggins as well as the people, that really meant a lot to me.”
After his days in the old gold and blue, Marc Bulger went on to the NFL where he played 10 seasons, nine of those with the St. Louis Rams and one with the Baltimore Ravens. Bulger threw for 122 touchdowns and 93 interceptions throughout his career.
“It’s great. This facility and the Final Four, and now it seems like the Sweet 16 every year, this coaching staff is just so welcoming,” said Bulger. “I never went to one basketball game when I was here at the University but now I’m a huge basketball fan of the Mountaineers and when they invite me back every year it’s on my calendar. Not just the coaching staff but all the guys that come back here, it’s just a great experience.”
Although Dale Blaney’s life has gone around in circles, quite literally, for a majority of his lifetime, he still reminisces on his days of basketball at West Virginia University.
“It’s pretty fun. I’ve never been back to this before because I kind of race for a living,” said Blaney. “It’s pretty fun to be around the guys and just be a part of West Virginia University again. I just race sprint cars all around this part of the country. My major was Physical Education, but really my major was racing,” Blaney said.
“It’s been a long time,” said Blaney when asked if he still had the basketball touch he used to convey back in the 1980’s. “I think I’ve had reconstructive on both knees so playing and pain and enjoyment really is not there anymore. It’s more frustrating than anything if I play,” he added with a laugh.
Huggins also spoke about how special Morgantown is to the returning players, some of which live here currently including Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks.
“I think Morgantown has changed quite a bit since I got out of school,” said Huggins. “I think more importantly, they feel really welcome to come back. They can come back here and lift and go get treated and have a great place to workout. It’s great for our guys to get to play against those guys and learn from them,” he finished.
In August, the Mountaineers will travel to the Bahamas to participate in the Summer of Thunder 2015 Tournament in Nassau, just a few miles from Atlantis.