Paul happy to be a Mountaineer

Paul Adkins, Sports Editor

May 5, 2011

There will be some friendly family rivalry in the Williamson household in the coming weeks and months.
Paul Herbert Williamson, Logan High Schools 6-foot-2 all-state guard, is headed to West Virginia University as a preferred walk-on with the WVU basketball team.
Hell soon be donning the Blue and Gold of the Mountaineers and will be playing for legendary coach Bob Huggins, but within his family hell be outnumbered.
Williamsons dad, Andy Paul, was a standout member of the Marshall University basketball team in the late 1980s.
Then theres Williamsons older sister, Andi, who currently is a sophomore pitcher on Marshalls womens softball team.
There might be some bragging rights, maybe during the (WVU-Marshall) football game but when its basketball shes going to be cheering for me. When its softball season Im always going to be cheering for her, Paul Williamson said of Andi. We support each other.
Williamson, a Harts native, had a stellar careeer at Logan, helping the Wildcats to three state tournament appearances, including the 2010 Class AAA state championship Logans first in the states highest level since 1991.
Williamson, a deadly 3-point shooter from 25 feet and beyond, closed out his prep career as Logan High Schools all-time leading scorer. He surpassed Logan coach Mark Hatchers uncle of the same name, who had previously held the mark for 40 years.
Williamson said hes proud to be a Mountaineer.
It feels very good, Im not going to lie, to play for a home state team, he said. Im pretty excited about that. WVU, I think, has the best fan base in college basketball. Their fans are unbelievable. I went to Morgantown for the Ohio State game last year and it was just amazing. Ive got the opportunity now to walk on and now Ive got a chance to do what I want to do.
Williamson said Marshall was also in the running as far as being invited as a walk-on. Several Division I schools out west had also offered him full-ride scholarships as well as a bunch of Division II teams.
In the end, he chose WVU over Marshall because the Mountaineers play in the much more high profile Big East Conference, which arguably plays some of the best collegiate basketball in the nation with all of the usual powerhouses such as UConn, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Seton Hall, Louisville and others.
The Thundering Herd plays in Conference USA, considered a mid-major by most.
I went over there and visited and thats where my sister goes to school,
Williamson said of Marshall. It was a possibility. I went over there and it was nice and they have nice facilities and everything. But WVU is in the Big East. I had already gotten mid-major offers so it would have been very hard to walk on at a mid-major school. If Im going to walk on, why not walk on at one of the best schools? Why not improve my skills and go play for Coach Huggins, one of the best coaches around, and play in the Big East? Its a great conference.
Playing for an in-state school relatively close to home weighed heavily on Williamsons mind as he took his time making his decision.
Division I schools UC-Riverside, Utah, Utah State and BYU had reportedly offered him a full ride. Williamson made a big impression with several western schools over the summer when played in a showcase tournament in Las Vegas.
Williamson had a memorable meeting with BYUs coaching staff at the AAU tournament as they compared him to The Jimmer himself BYUs sensational Jimmer Fedette, this years national player of the year.
The letters and phone calls then came pouring in from all over the country.
Being close to home did play a big part in the decision making process, Williamson said.
All of the Division I offers were way out west, I dont know why. I guess when I went out to Las Vegas and had a pretty good showing out there in the Fab 48 Tournament it caught their eye. Utah State, BYU, California-Riverside and Utah State were the main schools looking at me. There was no chance at all I would go that far. Thats just way too far for me.
Since hes now a Mountaineer, Williamson will have to retire his Duke gear. Williamson, wearing a gold WVU basketball shirt and WVU hat at Wednesdays event at Willie Akers Arena, had a blue Duke keyholder strap around his neck.
It was the Duke Blue Devils which topped West Virginia, 78-57, in the 2010 Final Four.
Duke had always been my favorite team, he said, smiling as he looked down at the strap. But it feels good now to be going to WVU.
Williamson ripped the nets in his senior year with Logan as he averaged nearly 25 points a game. He could also dish the ball off, dribble penetrate to the rack or be an almost automatic shooter from the free throw line as he sank 85 percent of his charity tosses.
He said playing for Logan in front of the usual 2,500 fans per home game was about as good of a high school basketball experience that he could have asked for. Williamson teammed with Noah Cottrill two years ago to lead the Wildcats to a 25-3 record and win over Wheeling Park in the Class AAA state championship game.
Cottrill went on to sign with WVU before the 2009-10 season but is no longer with the program.
It was unbelievable to play here, Williamson said. After I look at all of the great players who have played here and just to be a part of that is amazing. When I come back to the field house my (championship) banner is always going to be hanging up there on the wall. Thats something that a lot of people dont get, especially in Triple-A. Everyone here came out to support us. The fans at Logan are great.
Coach Hatcher said hes really proud of Williamson to be going to WVU.
Were really happy for him, he said. It couldnt have happened to a better kid. In talking to Coach Huggins the other day he really likes the fact that Paul had shoot the ball so well. He mentioned that he really hasnt seen Paul play a whole lot. They had already signed Noah last year and didnt get a chance to watch us play although some of the assistant coaches did. I dont think that he realized how well Paul could shoot the ball and how far.
Paul said he hit one from about 28 feet out over top of (Joe) Mazzulla and then hit a pull-back over Mazzulla.
One of the most overlooked aspects of Williamsons game is his defensive skills. At the college level, its a must-have quality.
The biggest thing is that Paul can defend, Hatcher said. Hes going to have to become a little more athletic. WVUs weight-lifting program is known for that.
Williamson said he plans on studying business management at WVU.