Robinson, a Welch, W.Va. native who played at WVU 1975-78, remained in Morgantown and has been manager of the Sabraton CVS for 23 years after a career in which he amassed 1,307 points and 881 rebounds. He averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds as an Eastern 8 first-team pick as a senior. Solheim, from Rochester, Minn., played from 1995-98 and averaged eight points and four boards. He is a senior manager of manufacturing at Milan Pharmaceuticals after obtaining an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and, in 2009, a Master’s in Business Administration.
Solheim, who lives in Fairmont, and Robinson were among 60 former players and coaches who returned to Morgantown last weekend for the basketball program’s version of homecoming. It has become an annual event under current head coach Bob Huggins, who has created a “total Mountaineer basketball family,” according to Solheim, after years under former coaches Gale Catlett and John Beilein when many players didn’t feel welcome.
“(Huggins) said how much he appreciates everybody coming back. Hey, we appreciate being invited back, because there was a spell there where none of us guys got together at all,” Solheim said. “Now, all the sudden, it’s every year. He has made it more of a total Mountaineer basketball family. He has been great for the program.”
Returning players and coaches spanned eight decades, with the highlight being the honoring of former West Virginia player, head coach and director of athletics Fred Schaus. His wife, Barbara, was escorted to a standing ovation. Fred, the first to score 1,000 points in school history, passed away on Feb. 10, 2010.
“There’s a great comraderie,” said Robinson, who has three children with wife Roselle. “We all talk about old times, old coaches, a lot of old stuff. We network. Maybe somebody can help somebody else out.”
The two were surrounded by solid collections of talent. Robinson played with Huggins, as well as Eastern 8 first-teamers Tony Robertson and Lowes Moore, and Warren Baker, among others. Solheim, a key cog in West Virginia’s 1998 Sweet 16 team, was surrounded by All-Big East pick Damian Owens, Adrian Pledger, Brian Lewin, Marcus Goree and guard Jarrod West, who hit the game-winning, banked three-pointer against Huggins’ Cincinnati team to vault WVU to the NCAA’s third round.
“The first time we came back for a reunion like this, Jarrod and I walked in together, and Jarrod said ‘Hi, coach. How are you doing?’ And coach said ‘Better than the last time I saw you.’ It was fun. We all laughed about it.”
Robinson, inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame last year, said he still officiates, but after “three back/hip operations, three knee operations, I don’t play much. Lowes Moore plays every day. I can’t play at all. Some of these guys still look pretty good, though.”
”It’s fun,” Solheim said. “I have seen a few of them in recent years. But for most of them, this is the only time during the entire year that they get back. It’s nice that Huggins and West Virginia are putting this together every year. It’s just great to get back. Every year we reminisce about everything that happened.”
Both Solheim and Robinson said they saw positives and negatives in this year’s Mountaineer team. Both liked the athleticism, while Robinson said he knew “a lot of people have a lot of questions. It’s hard right now. But I have a lot of confidence. Any time there is a change in the conference, there’s going to be growing pains, and that’s what they are experiencing now. Bob Huggins will get the team together. There’s no doubt in my mind. I have total confidence in him. And the kids are going to respond.”
Said Solheim: “I think we have a lot of great athletes, we have some young talent. I think we are going to get better. What don’t I like? From the outside, there doesn’t appear to be as much chemistry. Talking with our team last night, we all loved each other. We all lived in the same apartment complex. If we weren’t at practice together, we were in each others’ apartments. We spent all our time with each other. We had great chemistry. From the outside, it doesn’t look like these guys have that same type. But we had six seniors. That makes a difference.”