West Virginia opened its annual Bob Huggins Basketball Fantasy Camp on Friday, and as usual, there was a full field of 40 participants and noted alumni. Included in this year's returning former letter winners are Bob “Bobby Joe” Smith, a WVU Sports Hall of Fame member who played from 1957-59 alongside the legendary Jerry West. The Charleston, W.Va. native averaged more than 12 points and six rebounds per game while being named a two-time All-Southern Conference honoree. And though it was his first time back on campus since being inducted into the Hall in 2009, Smith said he relished the chance to get back on campus and interact with some of the current and former players and the camp participants.
"I got a call from Billy Hahn about six weeks ago, and of course I had heard about the fantasy camp, but didn't know much about it," said Smith, below, who also served as a high school coach and an assistant on Gale Catlett's staff from 1978-85 following a two-year NBA career with the Lakers under Fred Schaus. "I was very flattered. Things have changed so much and they didn't have this nice (practice) facility. I think what is so nice, and what Bobby has done, is to have all these players come back and take pride. To know these people have a place to come back to, to me this is what college basketball is all about.
"I'm excited. I was very fortunate to play with two pretty good players in (Hot Rod) Hundley and (Jerry) West. Our record was 81-12. We went three yeas and never lost a conference basketball game. We were all West Virginians and we really liked each other. We still stay in touch. The entire state is behind you here. The experience to be a Mountaineer and to know and entire state is behind you is great. The camaraderie, West Virginia demands that."
Along with Smith - and former teammate Jay Jacobs (1958-59) - West Virginia also welcomed back Seldon Jefferson (1995-97), Wellington Smith (2007-10), John Flowers (2008-11), and Juwan Staten (2013-15), along with siblings Kate (2001-04) and Meg (2004-08) Bulger. Their brother, former WVU and NFL quarterback Marc Bulger, participated in recent years, and the inclusion of the sisters this season gives the family a sweep of all alumni who played for the Mountaineers.
"It's fun. I'm kinda a West Virginia basketball historian," said Huggins, who also detailed the nonconference schedule recently released, as well as the team's summer progression in his interview above. "A lot of the guys when I was a little kid listening to the radio have come. I enjoy getting to hang out with these guys. I know most of them. I probably enjoy it as much as anybody. I think it's good that the (younger generation) has that perspective. They don't understand how influential West Virginia people have been to the game of basketball. Jerry was back, Hot Rod was back, Rod Thorn came back. Bobby Joe is back now, and Bobby Joe is one of the great players to ever play here. It helps their appreciation when they see the way the people here feel about those guys, and they have been gone forever and ever."
The camp, which runs from June 3-5, allows 40 participants to get an up-close look at the program while also being instructed by the current West Virginia coaching staff, as well as the returning alumni. The camp includes drills, contests, 5-on-5 games, and an ending tournament, as well as individual instruction and socialization with all involved. The original idea was for it to be a way to connect with the fan base, and allow former players and coaches to return to their alma mater, a focus of Huggins since he was named head coach in the spring of 2007. Huggins started the camp in 2010, and in the six ensuing years it has grown to include former NBA and NFL players, and some of the biggest names in school history.