Walk-On Williamson Makes Noise in WVU Debut - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Walk-On Williamson Makes Noise in WVU Debut

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MORGANTOWN -

It wasn't the largest contingency of Mountaineer fans the Coliseum has ever seen, but Paul Williamson's reception in his WVU debut was just what he dreamed of growing up in West Virginia.

"I've loved West Virginia basketball ever since I was little and there's no better place to play. It's special," says the freshman guard. "Coach Huggins is an excellent coach and the fans here are just unbelievable. They're the greatest fans in college basketball right now by far."

Williamson played in a gym that wasn't even at half capacity and he couldn't have cared less.

Just by checking into the game, fans recognized his name as a local boy – he played for Logan High School – and showed their appreciation with a polite applause. About a minute later, he created a raucous environment by nailing the first shot attempt of his college career – a 3-pointer.

"I was just wide open and I said, ‘Please, God, let this go in,'" Williamson said after the game.

Whatever prayer he said, it worked. He hit two of his four shot attempts and finished the game with seven points. He played nearly half the minutes after sitting on the bench the full 40 in each of the previous two contests.

Williamson didn't know coming into the game that he was slated to make his first appearance in front of the home crowd less than halfway into the opening half. There was nothing in his conversations with the head coach that led him to believe he'd be featured prominently against Alcorn State.

"Paul comes in and listens and tries to do what he is supposed to do," says Bob Huggins. "Paul can make shots and he is going to play hard and you know what he is going to give you."

That sort of mentality – to give effort and do only what he knows he's capable of – is exactly what Williamson attributes his extended minutes to.

"I've been practicing hard and I've been grinding out and just working hard and I just come in and compete and compete and compete," he says. "God's blessed me and that's really all there is to it."

With so many freshmen to keep track of, Williamson isn't the first name that comes to mind for WVU fans. He's just a walk-on, not expected to make the contribution that the scholarship recruits would be counted on for.

But in this game alone, he racked up more minutes than three other scholarship players have done in two and three chances.

"Look, Paul Williamson is a great player, I'm telling you," says junior forward Deniz Kilicli. "Paul Williamson is a great player because he listens, he does whatever he's supposed to do. He knows what he can do, what he can't do and he's a really smart guy. People don't know him, people don't give him enough respect, but he's a great shooter."

If the first three games are any indication, West Virginia could use more great shooters. That skill set is something Williamson saw in a former Mountaineer that has him eager to fill the role ultimately expand it.

"You know who I watched last year, who I kind of got a feel that I could play his role was Jonnie West," says Williamson. "He came in and shot the ball, he played hard when he was in. He was a good role player. He didn't do things that he couldn't do and I really respected his game."

West never developed into the type of defender he would have liked, and certainly not the one Huggins demanded his players become. His role was limited to what he could do if found with an open shot from the perimeter. He made good on it, and Williamson respects that, but he also wants more from himself.

It starts with improving his defensive effort.

"The one thing Coach Huggins has taught me – defense is really all about the heart," says Williamson. "If you've got it inside of you, it's just getting down and playing as hard as you can. I want to make him happy, so that's what I'm going to do."

Williamson must have made his coach happy when he stood up to a 6-foot-7 forward and blocked his shot despite the major mismatch. He showed a side of himself that perhaps he hadn't even seen before, and it was a sign that he's learning quickly to avoid being labeled a one-trick pony.

All the while, Williamson maintains a neutral expression. He never looks overly excited and even with the mobbing from his teammates and the cheers from the fans he loves, he kept his composure and continued to play. He knows no other way.

"That's just how I play basketball," he says. "I really play for mainly like two people. I play for the Lord, of course, and then I play for my coach."

As if afraid to offend anyone, he quickly adds, "And for the fans. I'm not going to showboat or anything, I'm just going to go out there and play my game. Those are the people I really play for."

And he gave them quite a showing in his debut.

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