A Gift To Remember

Paul Williamson gets it. The state native grew up admiring his Mountaineer basketball heroes. So when he got the chance to make a young boy's birthday extra special, he made it happen.

The walk-on fan favorite only endeared himself more to WVU backers and West Virginians everywhere with this story, shared by a poster on our message boards at BlueGoldNews.com.

Williamson said he knew the young boy's mother, who got in touch with him through Facebook and said she "wanted to do something special." The Harts native and Logan High School alumnus knew just the thing.

"You know, I always looked up to the Mike Ganseys and stuff," Williamson said, grinning. "If I was in that kid's shoes, I felt like it would have been amazing to meet them."

So that's exactly what Williamson did. He rounded up West Virginia's three biggest star players -- Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli -- and asked if the trio would mind taking a few minutes out of their day to meet with the youngster. All agreed.

After Saturday's win over Rutgers, they headed to the family's hotel room and knocked on the door.

"He was in shock at first," Williamson said of the boy. "When we opened the door, he just kind of stood there. Then he was running around, happy and excited. There were three other little boys in there with him, and they were all like, ‘Oh my gosh.'"

"We met the kid, took pictures with him. It was fantastic."

One of those pictures appears on the post on the BlueGoldNews.com message board. In it, Williamson holds the boy's birthday cake -- frosted in gold and blue and sporting a Flying WV logo, of course -- out for all to see. Bryant, Jones and Kilicli stand behind, sporting smiles, but none comparable to the ear-to-ear grin on the youngster's face.

"It was pretty great," Williamson said.

As the lone West Virginian on coach Bob Huggins' roster, Williamson said he has a special appreciation of what Mountaineer athletics mean to those from within the state.

Heading into Wednesday's game against Marshall, the only other Division I program in the state, that knowledge may come in handy. As one of eight true freshmen on WVU's roster, he has tried to impress the passion that goes into the yearly Capital Classic onto his teammates.

"There's only two Division I schools in the state. You either grow up to be a WVU fan or a Marshall fan. It's one of the two, really, when you're from the state," Williamson said. "This is one of the biggest games we'll play this season."

Williamson is familiar with the division of loyalties that is part of the territory in the souther part of the state. His sister, Andi, is a starting pitcher for the Marshall softball team.

Many of Williamson's former classmates at Logan High have moved on to attend college in Huntington, he said.

Add in the fact that the Charleston Civic Center, the site of Wednesday's game, also happens to be where he helped lead the Wildcats to a West Virginia state championship as a high school junior, and there will be no lack of emotion for the guard, returning to that scene wearing a WVU jersey.

"It's just all the memories there," he said. "It really gets you excited to play." Perhaps almost as excited as the young boy whose birthday he and his Mountaineer teammates helped make even more special this past weekend.

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