Paul Wants The Ball!

Paul Williamson was just another walk-on basketball player for West Virginia prior to Thursday night's game against Alcorn State.

When that 97-62 victory was over, however, the freshman from Logan County was already a bit of a legend.

"Paul wants the ball!" the students shouted in the final minutes of the game. But, in this contest, Williamson wasn't the "human victory cigar." No, he was much more than that for the Mountaineers.

"These fans are amazing. I've loved West Virginia basketball ever since I was little. There's no better place in the world to play," Williamson said.

He finished with seven points after hitting two 3-pointers and a free throw. He was 2-of-4 from behind the line, which is a better percentage than any other WVU player on the court on Thursday.

"As long as this team wins, I could care less if I play," he said. "I came here to play and work hard as long as this team wins."

Williamson jumped into the game early in the second half to the surprise of just about everyone in the Coliseum outside of the Mountaineers' bench. The freshman said he was stunned, too. "First, it went through my mind, ‘Did (head coach Bob Huggins) just call my name?'" Williamson said. "I was trying to calm myself down, and when I went up to the scorer's table I was just saying, ‘Please God help me and give me strength. Don't let me come out here and look stupid.'"

On his first offensive possession the first time on the court for West Virginia in a regulation game, Williamson received the ball from freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds. He let the ball fly from deep. And it went through the hoop.

"I was wide open, and I just said to myself, ‘please God let this go in,'" Williamson recalled after the game. "I saw Jabarie look at me and when he made the pass I caught it and I didn't want to hesitate, because if you hesitate you're going to miss it. I just focused on the rim and followed through and it just went in."

He played a whopping 19 minutes in the game, which was more than starting forward Keaton Miles.

"Paul comes in and listens and tries to do what he is supposed to do and some of those guys are still going to think they are going to out stubborn me and I just want to make sure that they understand they are not," Huggins said.

Each time he left and re-entered the game following his first-half shooting spree, Williamson earned a nice applause from the crowd – one that could only be topped by the standing ovation senior forward Kevin Jones received after taking over as the all-time leading offensive rebounder in school history.

Williamson has his choice of smaller-division schools after winning the 2010 Class AAA state title at Logan High School. He decided to walk-on at WVU instead.

"When Coach Huggins called me, I knew it. I've always been a West Virginia fan growing up, so whenever he called me, I knew where I was going," Williamson said. "Everything's perfect here."

Huggins said that Williamson will play this season, because he plays hard and Huggins knows what he can get from a player like that.

"Some of those guys, when you don't know what you are going to get from them, it makes it harder. When you have someone you know what you're going to get, if he gets an open shot and he has a great chance to make it, he's not going to force things and he's not going to over penetrate and lose the ball," Huggins said.

As those cheers blared through the Coliseum on Thursday near the end of the game, it wouldn't be unacceptable to crack a smile. Williamson never did, though. He stayed focused throughout.

"That's just how I play basketball. I play for two people – for the Lord and for my coach. I'm not going to showboat. I'm just going to go out and play my game," Williamson said.


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