Since returning back to Morgantown in 2007, there have been many events West Virginia basketball coach [dbBob Huggins[/db] has contributed his time and effort towards in order to get things off the ground.
However, none of these now-annual events draw quite the fan interest and garner such positive feedback quite like the Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp.
On Friday, a group of 35 Mountaineer basketball fans from across the country converged on the Basketball Practice Facility to kick off the annual event. Joined by a group of former Mountaineer stars, including Mike Gansey and Cam Thoroughman, who act as coaches throughout the event, campers participate in a wide-range of activities on the off the court, giving them a closer look at life in Morgantown.
For Huggins, the opportunity to see fans enjoying themselves and connecting with past Mountaineer greats makes the camp all worthwhile.
It's a great opportunity to bring former guys back who haven't been back in a while," Huggins said. "That's why I started it; to get these guys coming back."
In the past, campers were joined at the event by the likes of Jerry West and "Hot" Rod Hundley, two names synonymous with West Virginia hoops. But while these two greats were not in attendance this year, Huggins still managed to put together a solid mix of young and old WVU alumni, helping to create a unique opportunity for those attending.
"The first time we did it Jerry (West) was here, and Jerry adds a different element to everything he's involved in," Huggins said. "And not just Jerry, we had Hot Rod here as well. There were a lot of people, a lot of guys, who just wanted to come in and be around Jerry. Now, I think it has grown to a point to where they're excited about seeing a lot of the former guys."
The opportunities presented at the camp, according to Huggins, provide those in attendance with unique, lifelong experiences. Something that keeps folks coming back year in and year out.
"We've got guys who have been here pretty much from the inception," he said. "Some guys are coming for the first time. And I think it's gotten to a point to where they're giving it away as a Christmas present, people are putting it at auctions and auctioning it off, which is a good thing."
But the fans are not the only ones who get excited for this annual event. Former Mountaineers continue to return, and new participants arrive every year, helping to build the credibility and excitement behind the camp.
"They really do want to come, and I think what's happened is that we've been able to touch on different eras of West Virginia basketball," Huggins said. "I think the word of mouth has been pretty good. It's fun, it's great to come back, people you haven't seen in a long time."
Ultimately, providing fans with a unique atmosphere to rekindle past competitive fire and bridging the gap throughout West Virginia basketball history is something Huggins loves to see, as the camp continues to grow.
"We try to make it what (the fans) want," Huggins said. "It's amazing how, when they start to play, going in thinking 'I'm just going to enjoy myself,' then they start playing a little bit, those competitive juices start flowing a little bit and all of a sudden they want to win. You've got guys diving on the floor, taking charges; that just doesn't go away."