Gold and Blue Nation

Back in business: A look at Best Virginia’s roster ahead of TBT

Gold and Blue Nation

After a yearlong hiatus, Best Virginia is back.

The WVU alumni basketball team is set to make its second appearance at The Basketball Tournament, hoping for another run at the $1 million prize following a missed 2020 due to COVID-19. Competition begins on July 16 and runs through the tournament championship on Aug. 3 in Dayton, Ohio.

This year, fans have a lot to look forward to. While several fan favorites will make their return to the roster for 2021, Mountaineer fans will have the chance to see them up close and in person as they host a regional in Charleston at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. This marks the first time TBT will be held in the Mountain State, just two years after Best Virginia’s debut.

The team debuted in 2019 to much fanfare, boasting some of the strongest support in the 64-team field, and made it count in the first round with a 79-63 victory over Seven City Royalty — an Old Dominion alumni team. Things went downhill in round two, however, as they had to face the four-time defending champion Overseas Elite, falling 80-68.

Let’s take a look at who will suit up for Best Virginia come July:

James Long

  • Position: Head coach
  • Current team: WVU Tech (head coach)
  • Years at WVU: 2014-17
  • Overview: Long took over the head coach role at WVU Tech in 2019, leading the Golden Bears to a 23-8 record and a birth in the NAIA National Tournament before it was canceled. He followed that up with a 13-7 record in 2020-21, bringing home a conference title before his squad was eliminated in the NAIA Tournament second round. Before WVU Tech, Long sat on Bob Huggins’s bench as an assistant after playing under Huggins as a guard.

Da’Sean Butler

  • Position: Assistant coach
  • Current team: Wheeling University (assistant coach)
  • Years at WVU: 2007-10
  • Overview: One of the more celebrated scorers in WVU basketball history is back with Best Virginia — but this time, he’ll be wearing pants instead of shorts. Butler just wrapped up his professional playing career in Israel to return to the United States, joining Wheeling University as an assistant in February. He was a big contributor to Best Virginia’s first run in TBT — he started both contests for the team, averaging 6.5 points per game.

Dave Tallman

  • Position: Assistant coach
  • Current team: Morgantown High School (head coach)
  • Overview: Tallman’s Mohigans fell just one point short of winning their second state championship during his tenure, losing to George Washington in the class AAAA finals. That doesn’t diminish Tallman’s pedigree as a coach, however — in 2016, he led Morgantown High to a state title with a perfect 27-0 record.

John Flowers

  • Position: Forward
  • Current team: Boulazac Basket Dordogne (France)
  • Years at WVU: 2007-11
  • Overview: Flowers has become one of — if not, the — spokesperson for the Best Virginia squad, even joining Ot Elmore of Herd That (a Marshall alumni team) on a podcast to preview the competition. Aslo a co-host of the Final Fourcast Podcast, Flowers came off the bench in 2019, scoring 16 points in Best Virginia’s win over Seven City Royalty — but he wasn’t quite as formidable in the second round, dropping just four points in the loss to Overseas Elite.

Kevin Jones

  • Position: Forward
  • Current team: Alvark Tokyo (Japan)
  • Years at WVU: 2008-12
  • Overview: Another returning key contributor, Jones came off the bench to drop 17 points in the first round victory, grabbing seven rebounds to boot. He got the start in game two after guard Juwan Staten suffered a wrist injury, and Jones stepped up — the Final Fourcast-er led all scorers with 20 points with eight rebounds on top — six of which came on the offensive glass.

Juwan Staten

  • Position: Guard
  • Current team: West Virginia (graduate assistant)
  • Years at WVU: 2012-15
  • Overview: Staten’s TBT debut was cut short after sustaining a wrist injury that sidelined him for Best Virginia’s second contest against Overseas Elite. He was a workhorse in that first game, though — he played 29 minutes for Best Virginia (second to only Kevin Jones), scoring eight points and dishing eight assists.

Jaysean Paige

  • Position: Guard
  • Current team: Atomeromu SE (Hungary)
  • Years at WVU: 2014-16
  • Overview: Paige has bounced around the globe for his professional career, but he was the breakout star for Best Virginia in the team’s 2019 tournament debut. He averaged 14 points for his team’s two games, notching 17 points, five rebounds and four assists in the opening round matchup. This year, he averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in Hungary’s A League.

Tarik Phillip

  • Position: Guard
  • Current team: Tofas (Turkey)
  • Years at WVU: 2014-17
  • Overview: Phillip didn’t see any action in 2019, however he could provide a lot of depth in the backcourt. That year, he joined Best Virginia shortly after getting released by the Washington Wizards — now, though, he has been busy on the court overseas, playing stints for Turkey’s Tofas (his current club) as well as Israel’s Hapeol Jerusalem.

Sagaba Konate

  • Position: Forward
  • Current team: PAOK (Greece)
  • Years at WVU: 2016-19
  • Overview: One of the best shot blockers in recent West Virginia memory, Sags Konate makes his return to the blue and gold for this year’s TBT. Konate comes to Best Virginia from PAOK, where he’s played 18 games and averages 14.6 minutes per contest. He’s still a formidable force, even overseas — he averaged 4.4 boards for PAOK, along with 0.4 blocks per game.

Chase Harler

  • Position: Guard
  • Current team: Palangos Kursiai (Lithuania)
  • Years at WVU: 2016-20
  • Overview: One of several West Virginia natives on this roster, Harler is set to make his Best Virginia debut for TBT 2021. He’s had a strong start for Palangos Kursiai in Lithuania’s second-tier league, averaging 15 points and 3.2 assists in his rookie season overseas.

Nate Adrian

  • Position: Forward
  • Current team: MBC Mykolaiv (Ukraine)
  • Years at WVU: 2013-17
  • Overview: Adrian is making his second appearance for Best Virginia after averaging 13 minutes per game for the squad in 2019. The Morgantown native found his first points in the second round loss, but struggled overall offensively shooting 1-for-7 in the tournament. Professionally, however, he’s found his spot — he spent the 2020-21 season in the top flight of Ukraine’s basketball system, averaging 17.9 points and 7.9 rebounds for MBC Mykolaiv.

Jonathan Holton

  • Position: Forward
  • Current team: Kalev/Cramo (Estonia)
  • Years at WVU: 2014-16
  • Overview: A recent addition to Best Virginia, Holton joins the squad to bring some size as the former inbound defender of the famous Press Virginia defenses. He, too, has bounced around the world during his pro career, most recently competing in Estonia as part of Kalev/Cramo, which plays all over eastern Europe.

Teyvon Myers

  • Position: Guard
  • Current team: Roanne (France)
  • Years at WVU: 2015-17
  • Overview: The former bench spark plug is making his second appearance with Best Virginia after performing as a role player in 2019. Myers got the start in the first round, but played just two minutes without logging any stats. He got a bigger share of the shot pie in the second round, going 1-for-8 with five points in the loss. Professionally, he seems to have found himself a home playing in the top tier of french basketball, most recently averaging 7.8 points per game for Roanne.

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