Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Herd That players have revenge on the mind in TBT rematch against Best Virginia

MORGANTOWN — It’s not a Marshall-WVU rivalry that will fuel Thursday’s TBT second-round game between Herd That and Best Virginia.

In the words of former Marshall standout Jon Elmore, it comes down to old-fashioned, “Revenge and redemption,” he said. “They kind of handled us last year. They’ve got a good team. It’s going to be a loud environment, but revenge is on our mind.”

Best Virginia — the WVU alumni team — bested Marshall’s Herd That 89-79 last year in Charleston.

This year’s rematch tips off at 7 p.m. (ESPN+) at Wheeling’s Wesbanco Arena. The winner moves on to the round of 16 in the $1 million winner-take-all tournament.

In truth, Best Virginia and Herd That players do not share the hatred spirits felt by the fans of both schools. There is a mutual respect between the two teams.

“They have a really great team, but this has a different feel than it did back in college,” Best Virginia forward Kevin Jones said after last year’s meeting. “These guys now are like brothers to us. I know most of them personally.”

Herd That advanced to the second round by knocking off Pitt alumni team Zoo Crew. Best Virginia survived an upset scare and held off Dubois Dream in the first round.

“Herd That is very good,” Best Virginia coach James Long said. “They’ve added a couple of pieces that change them. Talent-wise, they’re as good as anyone in this region. That’s not even an argument.
“Rob Gray won a EuroCup with Monaco. Jon Elmore is incredible. Jacorey Williams averaged 18 (points) and eight (rebounds) in the first league in Italy. (James) Kelly was a problem for us last year. They have a team.”

Best Virginia’s roster will get a boost from forward Quincy Ford, a former standout at Northeastern in college who played professionally overseas with Best Virginia’s John Flowers.

Ford missed the first-round game while working on securing his overseas visa. He has already signed to play in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A league this fall.

A TBT ejection

In what may have been a TBT first, a fan sitting courtside during the Herd That-Zoo Crew game was ordered to leave by the referees and escorted out of the arena by local police.

It wasn’t just any fan. It was West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty, the Minority Whip of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Fluharty, from Wheeling, bantered back and forth with members of the Pitt men’s basketball team who were in attendance and sitting along the baseline.

He also heckled Zoo Crew players, mocking them for trailing in the game against players from Marshall University.

As Zoo Crew guard Levance Fields was attempting a free throw, Fluharty began speaking out to him, which brought a response from Fields.

The referees intervened and eventually called on police to escort Fluharty out of the game. He left without incident.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a passionate WVU fan and probably a little too loud,” Fluharty told WTRF in Wheeling. “This was nothing more than old-fashioned banter with Pitt fans as part of our historic rivalry. WVU won. Marshall won. It was a great atmosphere in Wheeling and I look forward to continuing to cheer on our state while toning it down a notch. Let’s Go Mountaineers.”

Playing with Wembanyama

Best Virginia guard Erik Stevenson spent the summer playing with the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League team, which meant he saw firsthand the talents of Victor Wembanyama.

The 7-foot-4 France native was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft and is heralded as one of the top prospects to enter the league since LeBron James.

“He’s the real deal,” Stevenson said. “He’s great. He’s a kid. He’s young. He’s very humble, which I loved.”

Stevenson said he was able to forge a relationship with Wembanyama through the summer league.

“First day of training camp, I’m having breakfast and he comes over and shakes my hand,” Stevenson said. “He’s the No. 1 player in the world. I was going to go introduce myself, but he actually did it first. We had a great relationship. He asked me a lot about the American game, so I was teaching him about that.”

As far as predictions, Stevenson said Wembanyama is the total package.

“When he finds everything, he may be top five all-time, I’ll be honest,” Stevenson said. “He needs to get a grown man’s body. Once he puts on the weight, the world is going to be in trouble.”

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