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By Staff | Feb 13, 2019

The WVU Mountaineers’ mens basketball team got a big win on Saturday, Feb. 2 in Morgantown over Oklahoma. Not too many seemed interested in going – and I had second thoughts myself – but the trip turned out to be worth my time.

Traveling on Route 7 to Morgantown is never a pleasant trip, especially after receiving around six inches of snow the day before. Helping to make the drive better is the always must-do: stop at Miss Blues for breakfast.

I had a couple things on the agenda for Saturday, but a noon start to the game kinda rushed me. So, not everything got done. My thought was the traffic would not be bad because of the weather, early start, and the team not winning as in the past few years.

As usual, most of my thoughts were wrong! I got stopped in traffic at the Sheetz station coming into town – partly game traffic and partly due to a wreck. However, I got to the parking lot about 10 minutes prior to the tip-off.

I had not heard that Jerry West was going to be at the game, but when I got there and was seated, they brought him out on the floor to a standing ovation. West and Willie Akers, the legendary Logan High School coach, were sitting together. Now if that doesn’t get a crowd fired up, nothing will.

I believe they should try and get West at more games. The team played an inspired game and got a big win.

I got the chance to speak to West on Saturday, and that was the highlight of the day for me. Back in 1994 I was living part-time in Los Angeles, and West was Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers at the time. O.J. Simpson was in the spotlight, and his trial was taking place in Santa Monica.

I would swing down by the courthouse during the court dates and try and get pictures. It was like a circus scene. O.J. would show up in a big black Cadillac and put on a little show for everyone before being escorted into the courthouse. There was a lot of protesting and name-calling and a lot of police presence.

It made for some good entertainment. I was running a small-time contracting business in the Studio City part of L.A. In order to get my California Contractors License I was required to take the exam. The test was held in a couple places, one being Inglewood – not a great part of the city. In fact, Inglewood was one of the most-feared parts, located in the western part of L.A. and near the community of Watts.

I was told to go to Stockton, on the north end of the state, and stay away from Inglewood, “It’s too dangerous,” they said. However, Inglewood was only about 20 minutes away, so I scheduled there instead.

I got up at 5 a.m. and headed towards the license board office. Once there, I had to park a block-and-a-half away and walk to the test office. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun walk, but I had no problems.

The test took about two hours. There were several taking the exam for the second time. I had not studied much but felt confident I would do well. Following the time allotted, the instructor passed out the results. I was told up front, and in front of everyone, I was the only one who received a passing score.

Now to try and get back to my car safely. I did, but as I was pulling out of the lot, I took a wrong turn and was pulled over. The officer asked me a few questions and gave me directions to the Great Western Forum. I wanted to see where the Lakers played.

That was the first time I ever met Jerry West! I went to the gate to inquire about a couple tickets which, by the way, were a hot item back then, and not cheap. I saw the man with a few other colleagues walking towards a big SUV. They had to pass me, and Jerry nodded his head.

I spoke to him and said, “I’m from West Virginia, how about a couple tickets?” He turned and asked me “Where from in West Virginia?” I told him Paden City, a small town between Parkersburg and Wheeling.

He said he new exactly where it was, “I played basketball in a little gym a few miles from there for a man from Paden City.” I said that would have been Sine Realty, and the man was Turk Sine. “That’s it,” he said. “Nice talking to you. Have a good time in L.A.”

No answer on the tickets!

On Saturday, in Morgantown, I asked him if he remembered that day. He said he didn’t; he said he has talked to so many people, it’s hard to keep track of what has been said. I told him I knew exactly where he lived out there. I had been by his house in Brentwood on occasion. It was close to UCLA and just happened to be within a few blocks of O.J. Simpson’s. He shook my hand, and I went on my way.

Probably the last time I’ll ever talk with him, but you couldn’t find a better person. Also spoke with Mr. Akers a couple minutes. What a great guy.

Anyway, despite the road conditions, traffic delays, early start, and cold weather… It was a great day. Coach Huggins and the Mountaineers got a big win, and Jerry West was in the house. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com