The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 21, 2014

Phillips made first basket ever in WVU Coliseum

MORGANTOWN — Levi Phillips, born and raised in Charleston, was an outstanding basketball player at West Virginia University in the early 1970s.

In fact, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound starting guard always will be remembered as the Mountaineer who scored the very first basket in the spanking new WVU Coliseum. That came on Dec. 1, 1970, in a memorable 113-92 victory against Colgate.

Phillips had played on a freshman team coached by Chuck Windsor in the old Field House (now known as Stansbury Hall) in 1969. That was a widely criticized requirement by the NCAA, keeping a student-athlete from a fourth varsity season as enjoyed today.

“Scoring the very first basket in the Coliseum remains my claim to fame,” Phillips chuckled during a recent visit to Morgantown. “I’ll cherish that forever.”

His varsity seasons were 1970-71, 71-72 and 73-74. In 1971-72, he played in only five games before being declared academically ineligible.

In those five games, he averaged 16.8 points per start as a junior.

The Charleston native’s career high scoring show netted 29 points in a 103-86 victory against East Carolina on Dec. 1, 1971 at the Coliseum.

For his three-year career, Phillips played in 65 games with 47 starts and logged a total of 1,518 minutes.

He made 283 field goals on 646 attempts (43.8 percent) and converted 95 of 160 free throws (59.4 percent). Phillips had 255 rebounds (4.6 per game) and 234 assists.

His total of 661 points average out at exactly 12.0 per game.

“I absolutely loved playing basketball at West Virginia,” Phillips said. “I’m a West Virginia boy. I was born and grew up in this state.

“I considered it an honor for me to play for our great university. And I enjoyed playing basketball for Charleston High School before coming to WVU.”

Lou Romano, one of West Virginia’s best known schoolboy coaches, was his mentor there. “We set the state record for most consecutive wins while I was at CHS, and it still stands,” Phillips smiled.

“We won 48 games in a row. That was from 1967 to 1969.”

Phillips, who still resides in the capitol city, had short stints in Texas for a while and California for a while and even Ohio. Then he came back to Charleston.

He’s now 63 years old.

Phillips, who graduated from WVU in 1974 with a degree in sociology, made a career in working as a mental health counselor in the Charleston area.

He spent about 15 years with that organization. During the last 10 years he has been an employee of the West Virginia Radio Corp. in Charleston.

In 2013, Phillips had to take medical retirement because of some health issues.

He and wife Cynthia have been married for 35 years. Their son Justin played basketball at Furman University in South Carolina.

What’s more, a grandson recently was selected to Scholastic Magazine’s top 100 middle school basketball players.

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