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Huggins' fantasy camp connects eras

MORGANTOWN - When Phil Collins finally had a chance to spend some quality time in West Virginia's new basketball practice facility this weekend, his first thought was predictable.

"Jealous,'' the former Mountaineer center from the 1980s said. "I've been to a few places and this is probably one of the best. No, make that THE best.''

Enabling past players to return and once again become a part of WVU basketball is one of the things that Bob Huggins enjoys most about running his annual fantasy camp that was held this weekend.

Well, that and showing them how much things have changed.

"It's neat," Huggins said. "These guys come back and they see how much everything has grown and changed. I was talking to Phil Collins and he said, 'You know, none of those bars have the same names on them.'"

Huggins ran his annual camp this weekend with a rather eclectic group of former players as coaches. In the past, he's had coaches as varied as Jerry West and Rod Hundley from the 1950s and Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler from just the past few seasons.

This year, in addition to Collins, Damien Owens returned, as did Cam Thoroughman. Butler was expected to make an appearance, too, although that was complicated by the birth of his first child on Thursday.

"And I can't keep [Mike] Gansey away,'' Huggins said. "I keep telling him he can't come back every year and we have to bring different guys back. And he just tells me, 'Coach, you don't even have to pay me. Just let me come.'"

As much as the camp is for those who put down $3,000 to attend, it is also an opportunity for a reunion of sorts.

"I think what has happened is the more they come back, the more they want to come back,'' Huggins said. "I think the reunion we have during the season has gone from about 30 guys to 120. This is a special place. Once you spend time here you kind of fall in love with it.

"The thing that has been most rewarding is having a Damian Owens or a Seldon Jefferson get hooked up with a Wil Robinson. I think we lose, especially today, the historic perspective of what these guys were and what they accomplished. We haven't done a very good job of connecting the different eras. I think this has helped considerably in that regard."

And those connections can always be important in so many ways.

"I've always thought playing here was a tremendous opportunity because you got to know guys who could continue to help you," Huggins said. "Jerry [West] has been terrific to me. Rod Hundley has been terrific. You can go on and on and on. That's what it ought to be. For lack of a better word, [it should be] a fraternity. We try the best we can to take care of each other."

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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