Anyone who grows up a fan of the West Virginia Mountaineers usually has that moment of “Gosh, I love this team.” It can come at the end of four quarters at Milan Puskar, at the end of two halves in the Coliseum, or boarding a plane at 6:00 am on Wednesday hundreds of miles from Morgantown. That was my most recent love moment; as I boarded my plane from Charleston, South Carolina to make my way west to Kansas City.
Day one of the Big 12 tournament is under way and we’re here to bring you along every step of the way. There are likely fans from every conference team here, but as I boarded my plane this morning, I was greeted by a rousing early morning cry of “Let’s go Mountaineers!” The plane was still saddled up to the Atlantic Ocean. As I took my seat on the plane, tired from a shortened night’s sleep, I realized the reality of where I was headed. The Big 12 tournament.
Just a short flight over toward Chicago and I found myself at a gate surrounded by Old Gold and Blue. Literally. It looked like a charter out of Clarksburg there. The excitement of all those around was palpable, conversations of how this team has played, both the good and the not so good, and the overall question of what if it’s this year and what if we are here to witness that conference title. Let’s just say the energy of the Mountaineer fans on that plane to Kansas City had the same buzzy electricity as a flight to Vegas for a weekend. Fans are here and their ready.
Upon landing, and quickly realizing I’m not cut out for this weather, we made our way back to hotel then over to the Sprint Center where I’ve had the pleasure of trading my fan hat in for a member of the photography club for the weekend. With the badge around my neck, I traveled down stairs to the Sprint Center’s version of Oz, and again realized how much I love this team.
Shortly later, the team’s shoot around started. My first thought? I’m definitely wearing taller shoes tomorrow. For fans who have never attended a shoot around, getting to see an up close glimpse at the personalities of the players we have come to love is just a treat of an hour. As the buzzer on shoot around rang out at zero, interviews came next. We made our way toward the locker rooms and players made their way to us, and the interviews started. Standing feet, sometimes inches from players, people fans have spent years getting to know and cheering on, is again another surreal moment.
Then Coach Huggins walks out to chat and you’re reminded that the nickname of Huggy Bear is so accurate because darn is that man a soft-spoken individual. After several minutes of the head coach answering questions from the media, it’s time to head back to the media room, upload photos and collect our belongings.
The first round of games is starting soon and tomorrow, and our beloved Mountaineers take the stage in just over 24 hours from now. I’ll be here each step of the way, which is hopefully for several more days, and I can’t wait to share this experience from fan to member of the media. It’s going to be an exciting time in chilly Kansas City.