MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia men’s basketball team is looking to begin the 2019 season with a fresh start. It’s a new team with new faces and a new bond.
WVU fans won’t have to wait until basketball season and will get a glimpse of this new team. From Aug. 3-13, the men’s team will visit Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona and tour and play a game in each city.
Sophomore Jordan McCabe said while the goal Spain trip goal is to win three games, it will also continue to build comradery. “Winning is a habit just like the other word is. I don’t feel like saying the word right now — we haven’t done that and don’t plan on doing so.”
McCabe continued by saying the trip will continue to build comradery with his team.
“I think more importantly if you ask any college coach, you ask any college player that went over on a foreign trip they talk about comradery,” he continued. “We are forced to be in close quarters for 10 days and riding on a plane with Derek who is 7-foot, he is going to take up most of my space so I will know more about Derek by the end of the trip and he will know more about me. It goes for everybody else for the team.”
A team can make an international trip every four years, something McCabe thinks his team will take advantage of.
“Outside of winning games it is important for us to get real close knit,” he said. “It is a head start. We are going to take it for what it is, you get a chance once every four years to get really close and get in the right mindset to jump start your season.”
Sophomore Derek Culver says the teams improved chemistry is “night and day.”
“You can just see it how our guys interact with each other, even in the locker room. It is all positive vibes, everyone’s cheering each other on — you know stuff like that,” Culver said. “Stuff that is positive that builds team bonding, chemistry. Stuff like that goes a long way. You go deep into the tournament you need your brothers …”
Sophomore Emmitt Matthews said this years team has already bonded.
“I think the guys are around each other a lot more, and we try to do something together every week no matter if it bowling, getting lunch — the little things,” Matthews said. “Anything helps and we are building things from the ground up. We had a very low team chemistry and at the end of the year it went up completely. We are just trying to have a completely new season from last year and be back up to where we usually are.”
Head coach Bob Huggins said this trip will have many benefits including comradery — although he believes that is not a big concern with this team.
“This group is as close as we have been and will be for a while,” Huggins said. “They hang out together, spend a lot of time together, live together (and) they are in the gym together. I don’t know the team building thing will be quite as important with this group as maybe it would be for some.”
Huggins said the main benefit will be the playing time especially for the newcomers.
“We have a lot of guys who have not played at this level. They’ve played — they haven’t played at this level, but they are talented enough to play at this level, and I think this will give them an idea of how hard you have to play and how you can’t take plays off,” he said.
Huggins added that this team is different.
“I think this group is different because they really do enjoy being around each other,” Huggins said. “You come in here at night and there are three guys in here together, they are rebounding for each other — getting shots. They’ve already been in here during the day and they will come in tonight. If they go downtown they go down together. I think it is a lot more fun that way.”
(Cover Photo courtesy of BGS’s Kelsie LeRose)