MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Bob Huggins Fish Fry is the premier charity event of the basketball season and this year’s was bigger than ever. On Friday, a record 2,700-plus people filled Milan Park for the 11th installment of the event.
Along with dinner and a show, the sold-out event featured live music, silent and live auctions and special merchandise. It was all to benefit two causes very dear to Huggins, the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund and the Remembering the Miners organization.
“It’s amazing it’s taken off and come what it’s become. It also tells you a lot about the people in this state and how much they believe in what we are doing,” Huggins said.
The special guests Huggins is able to big in year after year also show just how much people outside of West Virginia believe in his mission, too. Randy Moss was the guest at the first-ever fish fry.
WVU legend Jerry West, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, and Kansas’ Bill Self are some of the other big names who have attended over the years.
The 2023 edition brought out another Hall of Fame guest, former NBA star and current TV personality Charles Barkley.
“We were at the (Hall of Fame) induction,” Huggins said. “I said Charles, I need to talk to you about something. He said ‘what’s up?’ I said I need you to come to the fish fry.. It’s for cancer and my mother.”
Barkley of course said yes, he would be there.
He joked at the event that people were asking why he would want to go to West Virginia. “Bob Huggins” was his answer.
The two Hall of Famers spent the beginning of the night getting pictures with those in attendance and signing some autographs. After the food was served, Barkley joined Huggins and Tony Caridi on stage for some entertaining commentary.
Before they got started with the fun, Huggins delivered a powerful statement to the crowd.
“We want to build a cancer hospital here.. No. I said that wrong.. We are going to build a cancer center here,” Huggins said. “Last year, because of y’all we raised $2.6 million. From the looks of it out here, we are about to raise at least $2.6 million because of you (Barkley) and these wonderful people out here.”
Barkley shared his own sentiment.
“I would do anything for this guy,” he said. “I want to thank every sniffle person who is in this building because you cal could have been doing something else tonight. Time is the most valuable asset in the world, but you guys took time out of your life, so thank you for being here.”
While Barkley was primarily in town for the fish fry, it also helped that his alma mater was scheduled to play in Morgantown the following day as WVU hosted Auburn in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“I’m looking forward to actually seeing a game here, Barkley said. “You see it on television, but when you go to these hometown arenas that love their team, it’s always a difficult environment.”
Entering this year’s fish fry, the event had raised more than $16.5 million dollars to benefit cancer research.