For separated West Virginia alums, podcasting and TBT helps keep the bond strong

 

By: Dylan Woods


After falling to Overseas Elite in Richmond last summer, Best Virginia is back for Year 2

In 2010, West Virginia basketball was riding high. The Mountaineers won the most games in school history and reached the Final Four for the first time since 1959.

Even after a loss to eventual champion Duke, the program had just witnessed its best season in school history since the likes of Jerry West were in town.

That spring, the team’s leading scorer, Da’Sean Butler, graduated and was picked by the Miami Heat in the second round of that year’s draft. 

Two of his closest teammates, John Flowers and Kevin Jones, also graduated in the next couple of years. After impressive senior seasons by each, Flowers went to play overseas in Japan and Jones began a trek in the NBA’s D-League. For a group that had accomplished so much in Morgantown, it was time to part ways for their own personal journeys.

By 2018, the trio had put enough miles on their frequent flyer cards to last ten lifetimes. 

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Butler was playing for Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel after stops in Germany, France and Belgium. Flowers had also bounced around various continents before ending up in Argentina for La Union Formosa. And Jones was about to begin playing in Japan for the Ryukyu Golden Kings following stints in places like Indonesia and Serbia after a brief 32-game run with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It was especially hard to connect with everybody in different time zones,” said Flowers. 

Still, all the while, the three stayed in touch from different corners of the globe during the season, rambling on about old memories or whatever else came to mind.

Then the group had an idea: If we’re going to be talking to each other all the time anyway, then why not put it out there for everybody to hear? Like many others in the last several years, they started a podcast.

The Final Fourcast first went on the air in the summer of 2018. The former teammates discuss a wide range of topics, including everything from the latest in the WVU basketball world to ghost hunting or whatever is going on in their personal lives. While they’re not playing overseas, the group lives together in the same West Virginia neighborhood in the offseason so there are always plenty of stories to tell.

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“It’s pretty much locker room talk, but we’re recording it,” said Kevin Jones.

Their connection was as strong as ever and the podcast was going well, so the friends decided to take it one step further. In 2019, they and other former West Virginia players formed a team to participate in TBT, humbly named Best Virginia.

Despite a valiant effort, they were knocked out by four-time champions Overseas Elite in the second round. 

In a sinister parallel to the 2010 Final Four loss, a key injury spelled doom for both the Mountaineers of past and present. It was Da’Sean Butler’s torn ACL in the second half that put the nail in the coffin against Duke, and a nasty wrist injury kept point guard Juwan Staten out against Overseas Elite. 

“We were right there with Overseas Elite [last year],” said Flowers, who became the team’s GM as well as a key cog in the rotation. “If [Staten] hadn’t gotten hurt we would have won that game.”

“We just played bad that game. But I think we learned a lot about what we need to do to win.”

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Although the roster has yet to be finalized, it is shaping up to be a very similar rotation to last year. Flowers, Jones, and Butler all signed up to return along with the vast majority of the team’s debut squad. Devin Williams, who averaged a double-double for the team in 2019, and Tarik Phillip, who had to back out a year ago, have been confirmed and more mainstays are on the way.

“I’m always confident with my guys,” said Jones. “Whoever we go in there with, we’ll be confident.”

While the players may not change too much, there has been some buzz about who will be patrolling the sideline for the Best Virginia team. On a local radio show, Flowers asked his former coach Bob Huggins to lead the team. 

Huggins accepted, saying he “would love to” but the two haven’t spoken since. However, Flowers did tease Huggins as an upcoming guest on the podcast, so there could be a big announcement in the not too distant future.

Leading up to this summer, the Final Fourcast crew had big things planned. Most notably, they were going to host a number of live shows around West Virginia in the weeks before the tournament for all their listeners.

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However, things are currently up in the air thanks to the coronavirus situation. 

“It’s looking real uncertain now with everything going on,” Flowers said.

Still, there is one thing that won’t be left up to chance: a close bond between three teammates still as strong as ever after a decade away from their college days. No matter what happens this summer, that isn’t going anywhere.

“Those are my brothers, man,” said Flowers. “I love those guys.”