Mitch Vingle: WVU, Marshall, Poca hoops news

Mitch Vingle

The name of Billy Dee Williams has always been synonymous with the word “star.”

The actor is a star. He’s been known for his work in “Star Wars.” He was on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Now, though, WVU’s basketball coaches might be looking for a star in Billydee Williams, a 6-foot-6 guard from South Plains College in Levelland, Texas.

Let’s stop here for a minute, however, and back up.

Hardcore Mountaineer fans know that for weeks Bob Huggins and his staff have been on forward Justin Martin, who announced he’s transferring from Xavier. The former Musketeer averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds last season and was a key in his team’s NCAA tournament run.

A Justin Martin Watch has been in place among Mountaineer fans. The player visited Florida State and SMU and was to hit Morgantown soon.

The Watch, though, has suddenly stopped.

WVU has pulled out of recruiting the forward for reasons unknown. Speculate as you will, but know the Mountaineer coaches have indeed pulled the plug, and he reportedly committed to SMU Tuesday night.

Which brings us back to Billydee Williams, who is quite an enigma.

Williams (the tall guard, not the star) played last season for a South Plains team that, as a member of the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, went 29-6 and made a postseason run to the NJCAA Elite Eight.

In one of those games, Williams came off the bench to score 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (4 of 6 from 3-point land) and added two blocks, three rebounds and a steal in a win over seeded Cape Fear.

Did you catch part of what I wrote though?

He came off the bench to score 16.

Williams averaged 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and had 27 steals on the season. He had 27 against Paris — and later zero against Paris. He had 24 against Frank Phillips — and later zero against Frank Phillips. He had 29 versus Collins Community College — and zero versus Midland College. He started but one game.

But check Williams’ highlight video. It makes an absolute mockery out of the phrase “stats don’t lie.” The kid is dripping in athleticism. He’s a flashy dunker. He’s a deep-range shooter.

Perhaps South Plains coach Steve Green had difficulty with Williams. (Attempts to reach Green weren’t successful.) Maybe the coach was sending a message.

And the player has moved around. An Orlando, Fla., product, Williams went from high school to Faith Baptist Christian prep school to Iowa Western Community College to South Plains. He once committed to Towson. But he’s also been involved with schools like Texas A&M, UTEP, Wyoming, Murray State and Oklahoma State along the way.

Two of Williams’ teammates, Roderick Lawrence and Michael Karena, are headed to Ole Miss and Wright State, respectively.

We’ll see. WVU might have found a gem in the tumbleweeds. The Martin Watch, though, has stopped ticking.

▪ ▪ ▪

While on the subject of basketball players with “star” names, Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni apparently will receive a visit from Poca’s Luke Frampton this weekend. Elijah Cuffee, who, like Frampton, is coming off his freshman season, has already visited Huntington.

According to Dots coach Allen Osborne, MU hasn’t offered either quite yet, but has shown much interest.

That seems to be a theme. As we reported in the Gazette last week, D’Antoni has already offered a scholarship to South Charleston’s Brandon Knapper, who is coming off his sophomore season with the Black Eagles.

Also, John Harler, father of Wheeling Central standout Chase Harler, said his son has also received a scholarship offer from the Thundering Herd. Chase Harler would be in the signing class of 2016.

The elder Harler said although his son only has the one offer so far, there’s also been interest from Elon, James Madison and Davidson. (“West Virginia knows of him,” John Harler added.)

It’s a lot of basketball news for the beginning of June.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at

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