Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

WVU Basketball Alumni Game Returns For Second Year Under Direction of John Flowers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia Men's Basketball Alumni Game returns to Morgantown this weekend and John Flowers, the former Mountaineer standout who put the contest together, hopes to build on last year's success and make the alumni game a summer tradition in Morgantown for many years to come.

It will be tough for Flowers to beat last year's inaugural alumni game - one that featured 259 combined points in front of a sold-out crowd at Morgantown High School's gymnasium, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to improve this year's contest.

"(Last year) I learned a lot, (putting the event together) was a lot harder than I thought," Flowers admitted, "but you want to make it worth it to everyone who bought tickets."

Flowers surveyed fans who attended last year's game and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but it also gave him the chance to find out what else he could do to improve the overall experience of spectators. This year he has implemented some new wrinkles that will give former players a chance to interact with fans and detail their experiences since leaving Morgantown. In addition to the increased interaction there are also a few new faces featured on the event's roster, including Darris NicholsDevin Williams and Jaysean Paige. Flowers said he hopes to grow the alumni game into a reunion-like event that will draw former players even if they aren't interested in being part of the actual game itself.

"Even if (former players) don’t want to play they should come watch the game and reunite with everybody," Flowers said.

As the popularity of the annual game grows, Flowers hopes to eventually move the contest to the WVU Coliseum, something that wasn't possible this year due to the current renovations that are underway.

"I definitely want to keep it going and get it bigger and better each year," Flowers said about the game. "That's the overall goal because there aren't a lot of sporting events going on in the summer. The best thing would be to play in front of all the fans again and run out on the carpet again. When we graduate we get the feeling that 'Ok, this is the last time we're going to be able to run out on the carpet and play in the coliseum.' It would mean a lot to all the players to play there in front of all the great fans again."

But perhaps even more important to Flowers than creating an annual reunion-like tradition is the chance to help out charities and families directly involved with the Mountaineer basketball community. This year's contest will benefit Conquer Chiari, which is a non-profit charity that is dedicated to improving the experiences and outcomes of Chiari and Syringomyelia patients through education, awareness and research. Flowers decided to partner with Conquer Chiari in part because Debbie Williams, an employee in the WVU athletic department, has a child suffering from Chiari Malformation, which is a neurological disorder in which brain tissue extends into the spinal chord.

"There’s a lady by the name of Debbie Williams that has been working in the basketball office for a long time and her daughter suffers from (Chiari Malformation) and she was telling me about it so I want to try to help her out this year and raise awareness for that," Flowers said. "Last year we raised a little over $6,000 for the Coach Huggins’ mother’s endowment fund so hopefully we can pass that this year."

Fans planning to attend the event are encouraged to purchase tickets ahead of time at jflowent.com. The game will be held on Saturday, July 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Morgantown High School.

   


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