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A10 photo

WVU’s Chris Brooks (No. 15, back row), who died last week at the age of 54, was a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Star team, coached by former WVU coach Gale Catlett (back row, second from right), that toured Finland and Sweden in 1989. Also on the team was WVU’s Steve Berger (No. 2, front row).

The deaths this week of former WVU basketball player Chris Brooks and former Temple coaching legend John Chaney brought back memories of the Mountaineers’ days in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

It was a different time in college basketball. There was no Power Five football to impact conference realignment and the way we look at college basketball.

Truth be told, in the days before the Big East and the Big 12, most Mountaineer fans looked down on the Atlantic 10, and that may be unfair. The Atlantic 10 was a very competitive league with great coaches.

WVU was the bell cow of the league in terms of arenas. The Coliseum was the only true “arena” in the league as schools like Temple, Rhode Island, Penn State, St. Joseph, George Washington and UMass played in smaller gyms. Winning on the road was not easy.

In the A-10, it was major recruiting news when WVU signed Chris Brooks out of New York City. Brooks was only 6-foot-6, but he was an explosive jumper. He was the first McDonald’s All-American in school history. He played from 1987-91 and scored 1,661 points, 12th best in school history. His death last week, at the age of 54, stunned many Mountaineer fans.

In case you have forgotten, when Brooks played at WVU, there were several in-state players on the Mountaineers roster. Here are some of them.

Marsalis Basey: He was an athletic 5-8 point guard from Martinsburg High School.

Steve Berger: A 5-11 point guard from Boomer in Fayette County, Berger played at Valley High School.

Jeremy Bodkin: A 6-9 forward, Bodkin played at tiny Franklin High School in Pendleton County.

Herbie Brooks: One of many great players from Mullens in Wyoming County. WVU play-by-play announcer Jack Fleming called Brooks “Little” Brooks and referred to Chris as “Big” Brooks.

P.G. Greene: A 6-8 forward from Oak Hill who had a career scoring average of 13.8 points.

Tim McNeely: A walk-on with the nickname of “Catfish,” he went on to be the director of the Greenbrier Classic PGA event and athletic director at Fairmont State.

Tracy Shelton: A 6-0 guard from Oak Hill, he once scored 36 points in a 97-93 win over Pitt.

There were other area ties to Chris Brooks. His 1989 WVU team went to the NCAA tournament and beat Tennessee 84-68 in Greensboro, North Carolina. One of the Tennessee players was Greg Bell, who played at Cedar Grove Junior High and DuPont High School. Bell scored 14 points and had five assists in that game.

Bob Huggins has raised the expectations for Mountaineer basketball and has fans dreaming of a Final Four and national championships. However, the Chris Brooks era at WVU helped elevate the program also.

Contact Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.