WVU Tech and Best Virginia Head Coach James Long is known for his hardwood exploits in the West Virginia.
Though his basketball career isn’t tied entirely to the state.
Long started his collegiate playing career at Wofford before transferring to WVU.
Ironically the WVU alumni team he’ll lead into The Basketball Tournament at the Charleston Coliseum on Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN) will open against WoCo Showtime, a Wofford alumni team.
“I know a lot of them,” Long said. “I think there’s Lee Skinner, Spencer Collins and I hosted Eric Garcia on his official visit. I know Kevin Hickson too. I’m familiar with some of the other guys with them having come in after me. But I’m definitely familiar with those guys. They know how to win.”
Despite the familiarity, Long doesn’t think there’s too much of an advantage for him as he leads Best Virginia into the event. He hasn’t played with the group in over five years and they’ve become different players during that span.
“I would say it’s more of a sense of comfortability instead of an advantage,” Long said. “Knowing who they are, it’s a good and a bad thing. They’ve changed as well. Lee Skinner’s been playing overseas as long as he’s been out of college and he was a sophomore when I was a freshman. He’s been out for a good bit and I’m sure he’s advanced his game. Eric Garcia played with John (Flowers) in Mexico and they won a championship together. Everyone’s advanced their game.
“Some of the main guys for WoCo Showtime – Fletcher Magee, Emmitt Williams from LSU, Daniel Amigo who played with John in Mexico and plays for Mexico’s national team, they’re good. Some of those guys that are probably going to have a lot of usage for them, I’m not familiar with. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they all bounce off of each other.”
Adding to the fact that Long hasn’t seen many of his former teammates play in years, he also doesn’t know how WoCo will play together. It’s a part of TBT that adds a layer of agony in some cases, but the head coach looks at it differently.
“The exciting part, at least I look at it as exciting and it can be nerve-racking, is you don’t know what to expect,” Long said. “You don’t know how they’ll play off of each other. You don’t know what actions they’re going to run or if they’re going to run any actions. You just kind of have to go with the flow as you get into the moment and worry about yourself. But we put together some absolutes. We looked at what their numbers were if they were playing overseas and what their numbers were if they just came out of college. Like Keith Braxton who just played at St. Francis two years ago, Nate Hoover from Wofford – some of these guys just got done with college so we can take their stats from there.”
Best Virginia announced a new addition to the team’s roster on Thursday night, welcoming Fairmont State product Jamel Morris. Morris is familiar with the team and played under former WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla when he was on staff for the Falcons.
“He’s a joy to be around,” Long said. “He’s a basketball spunk. He’s tedious in terms of understanding the game. I think he balances well off of everybody. I think it was important for us that we didn’t just add a random piece. We tried to get a guy that we’re familiar with. Jamel is always in open gym with us and we got to know each other over the years with him being from Fairmont. He’s just one of those guys that’s gotten better every single year.”
Best Virginia will tip-off its TBT journey on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Charleston Coliseum. Herd That, a Marshall alumni team also competing in the tournament will tip-off right before that at noon. Both games will air live on ESPN. For tickets, please visit here.
Contact Tyler Jackson at email@example.com, call him at 304-731-5542 and follow on Twitter @tjack94