WVU Alumni Game: Old Grads & Young Lads

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It’ll be a turn-back-time Saturday when some old grads and young lads join each other at Morgantown High for West Virginia’s inaugural alumni basketball game at 7 p.m.

Organized by John Flowers of the young lad category, the game will feature some of the best ever to wear the Old Gold and Blue, including recent players like Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, Truck Bryant and Joe Alexander. Or Rob Summers, Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman and Jamie Smalligan. Jonnie West, Pat Beilein and Mike Gansey – which would make a lethal combination in a three-point competition. Wellington Smith and J.D. Collins and Ted Talkington.

There’s Drew Schifino and Tyrone Sally and Brent Solheim and Jarrod West, between all of them multiple Sweet 16s and Elite Eights, a Final Four, a Big East postseason championship, a Final Four, and NIT title within a program with 1,676 wins to rank in the Top 25 all-time.

And then there are old grads, like Lowes Moore, Daryl Prue and Herbie Brooks. Players who led the Mountaineers to multiple Atlantic 10 regular and postseason titles and additional Top 25 finishes. Brooks anchored a 1988-89 West Virginia team that finished 26-5, including a national-best 22-game winning streak after a storied prep career at Mullens (W.Va.) High in which the program won three straight state titles. As a WVU Sophomore, Brooks, paired with Prue, came off the bench to hit eight consecutive free throws in the last two minutes as the Gale Catlett-led Mountaineers upset No. 5 Temple 64-61 in the always difficult confines of storied McGonigle Hall.

“I’ve met Kevin Jones and Wellington Smith, and just the opportunity to play with the young guys,” Brooks said before trailing off. “Man, I started looking at the list, and I said ‘It’s all young guys.’ You know? I’m picked last, I might try and sneak out the side door of the gym.”

When told Prue, who works with high level prep players in the Washington, D.C. area, dunked the ball in a recent warm-up session, the 6-2 Brooks said that he “couldn’t even dunk back then. Maybe a warm up or practice, I might sneak one in. But as far as dunking in a competitive game, the last time was a summer league in Beckley. It was actually pretty competitive. I got three dunks in the same game and I’ve never dunked again.

“I don’t play regularly, but I have kept my weight down and stayed in pretty good shape,” said Brooks, who has worked for Alpha Natural Resources in Whitesville, W.Va., about an hour from Mullens. “I’ll get a little run, then once it gets all competitive, I’m gonna sit down. Those young guys can have it. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Prue, formerly an assistant at Georgetown, works with Team Takeover Player Development in readying prep underclassmen for their final seasons. Prue’s Mountaineers went 26-5 in 1989, his senior year, with the 6-7 forward averaging more than 12 points and six rebounds – which he did during his sophomore and junior seasons as well, when WVU won at least 20 games each year.

The DC native said he has known Flowers, from Maryland, “since he was about 14. He used to come with his brother to Doc’s Gym a long time ago. Then I saw him play when I was working at Georgetown, and had him up for an official visit before he came to West Virginia.”

It was an easy connection to a former player for Flowers, and Prue was among the first of the old grads to commit. Prue said he has worked some basics on the court in preparation, and that he can still stuff it, but isn’t sure exactly how much he has in the tank in terms of playing the full 94 feet against some former NBA and current professional players.

“I’m still moving pretty well,” said Prue, who has worked Huggins’ Fantasy Camp and is coming off hip rehabilitation. “Really, it’s a great opportunity to meet all those guys. I enjoyed playing for Catlett and meeting the people I met there. It was a great time with a lot of wonderful games and memories. We will see how well I can do on Saturday.”

Those were much the same sentiments of Solheim, a Rochester, Minn. native who played, like Prue and Brooks, under Catlett. Solheim was a co-captain of the 1998 team that knocked off Huggins’ second-seeded Cincinnati squad 75-74 to reach the Sweet 16, where it lost to eventual national runner-up Utah. On Saturday, Solheim is likely to be on the floor at the same time as Jarrod West, the diminutive listed-at 5-11 point guard who hit the winning three-pointer with less than a second to play. West is now the head coach at Clarksburg’s Notre Dame High.

“I have no illusions that I’m going to keep up with those guys,” Solheim said. “I’ll be 40 soon. I played (Tuesday night) for the first time in a year and a half. I had to get a couple runs in.”

Solheim, who lives in Fairmont and works at Mylan, also went to a local gym to see if he could still dunk. The results were, well, mixed. He can dunk; one would not call the 6-8 forward a “dunker,” per se.

“I’ll do whatever those guys want me to do,” he said. “I’m a competitor. I’ll get up and down the floor a few times, see what happens. It is enjoyable to stay involved and around the program like this. It’ll be a good time.”

Tickets for the event are $15 and available online and at the door; proceeds benefit the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund.

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