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June 9, 2012

Fantasy camp returns former Mountaineer stars

The annual Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp kicked off Friday afternoon in Morgantown with a slew of former West Virginia basketball players in attendance to help coach participants and run the weekend event.

Throughout the event, campers are divided into four teams, each playing a round-robin tournament to crown the yearly champion. Teams are coached by former Mountaineer stars, including Da'sean Butler, Alex Ruoff, Wil Robinson, John Flowers, Jonnie West, Joe Alexander and Mike Gansey, among others.

The camp gives players and fans participating time to bond in a relaxed, jovial atmosphere. Flowers, who returns to Morgantown following a year of playing overseas in Japan, even asked to be referred to as "Coach Flowers" as he talked about returning for the event.

"It will be a good experience," Flowers said. "I've coached a little bit in my past days, coached a little bit of little league. I'm here to win."

While the camp sets up participants on teams with Mountaineer greats, this season added a new twist to the camp's dimension. Campers participated in scrimmages today, which coaches observed in preparation for a draft tonight. Flowers team, headed by Ruoff, won the first overall pick in the draft.

"We have the draft tonight, first overall pick," Flowers explained. "We know who we're getting, but we're going to keep in low right now, we're not telling anyone."

While the camp is meant for participants to have a unique, enjoyable experience, for the returning players it's an opportunity for fun and a little back and forth trash talk at times.

"I'm by far the best coach here," Flowers joked. "I'm the assistant coach, actually, but I'm by far the best coach here. I'm better than the head coach. He (Ruoff) has no clue what he's doing, but he's going to let me take over and let me do a lot."
Players returning also will be able to channel their inner-Huggins as they see how life is on the bench.

"We have some treadmills over there, might have to bring those into effect," Flowers said. "Other than that, just the will to win. We're going to win it all."

Joining Flowers on the bench is Ruoff, who returns to Morgantown following a stint playing professional basketball in Belgium. The school's all time leader in three-point field goals made has been in town over the past few months rehabbing a torn ACL, was cleared this morning by his doctors to return to action.

While his rehab has been progressing well, and he prepares to resume his career, Ruoff is excited to culminate his time in Morgantown this year with the camp.

"It's nice seeing all the old players and hanging out with them," Ruoff said. "They have some pretty cool things planned for these campers, so I'm excited for them."

Along with his role as a coach, Ruoff is also preparing to participate in the alumni game this weekend, pitting former Mountaineer stars with the campers.

"It might be a little weird playing with Mike (Gansey) and Joe (Alexander) again," Ruoff explained. "It's been a few years. I haven't played with Mike since 2005 so that could be something."

Along with Flowers on his staff, Ruoff has recruited Jay Jacobs as a second assistant coach. With such an eccentric bench, Ruoff believes he has dictated the duties well.

"It's a pretty solid staff," Ruoff said. "John's going to do most of the yelling and Jay's going to translate for all the players what John says. I'm going to take the Phil Jackson approach, sit back and rely on my staff. Less is more."

Also making his return to Morgantown is Alexander. The former NBA lottery pick with the Bucks in 2008, Alexander has been playing professional ball in Russia the past season. Like Ruoff, Alexander enjoys returning to town and catching up with former teammates, and making new friends through the campers.

"I think everyone loves to come back and see all these old faces," Alexander said. "We also have a chance to do a good thing for these campers and have a little fun. I love coming back to Morgantown. I always enjoy an opportunity to see my old teammates, see my old coaches, and this time in particular see the new practice facility."

Today was one of the first opportunities Alexander had to see the new basketball practice facility,

"It would've been nice if I had something like this, but I love the Coliseum," Alexander said. "I'm glad to see the new players have this, because it's really special."

As for the camp itself, Alexander believes the campers this weekend are in for an experience of a lifetime.

"They try to set this camp up so everybody has fun and has a memorable experience, and do something they get to go home and tell stories about," Alexander said. "I think that's the goal, and hopefully play some good basketball too."

In terms of what to expect, former Mountaineer great Mike Gansey believes this weekend is an ideal opportunity to connect with fans and former players in the spirit of Mountaineer basketball.

"I say it all the time, this weekend is what it's all about," Gansey said. "To see Alex and Joe, two of my teammates, with Da'sean, John Flowers, other guys, Coach Huggs; guys I didn't necessarily play for or play with. But just to be here and see all the Mountaineer family. With my schedule being so busy, not being around West Virginia, just coming here and being around everyone, this is what it's all about."

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