The Press Box: Wetzel County Loses Basketball Great Lou Mott
A very special man passed away last week here in the local area. If any of you didn’t know Lou Mott you missed out on one of the nicest persons you could ever meet. Lou would stop into the Wetzel Chronicle office on occasion just to talk about the young athletes in the area. He never was negative and always had a kind word for the area coaches and athletes. He was a sports guy, loved to play during his day and loved to watch in later years.
A couple years back he stopped by and wanted to know if I was going to the regional volleyball tournament in Ritchie County. We decided to go and I am glad we did. I learned a lot about him on that trip. He had a lot to talk about and it wasn’t all about him. Although there was plenty to be said about his skill as a former basketball and baseball player at Pine Grove High School, he wanted to talk about todays teams.
It seemed like he was more interested in the kids of today than himself. I asked him several questions about his playing days, but the conversation always led back to how good todays athletes are compared to back then.
Lou was a fascinating individual who in his prime as a basketball player could hold his own with the best. He had some great stories to tell about his playing days at Marshall University. One of my favorites, and I’ll bet many of you have heard it, was when the Herd went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to play the Bearcats. As the story goes, he was matched up against the Bearcats all-time great and later NBA star Oscar Robinson.
According to Lou he played a great defensive game. “I did pretty good against him, I held him to 38 points.” Lou also said he sent Oscar to the foul line with a little rough defense. He said Oscar turned around and said, Mott, you see all these people here, they came to watch me play. Lou who was never lost for words responded with,” Oscar, you see those two people up there in the cheap seats? That’s my mom and dad, they came to see me play.”
Lou was a great scorer at Pine Grove high school where he tallied a state record 2,117 points, becoming the first player in West Virginia history to accomplish that feat. He later played on the West Virginia/Ohio high school All-Star team against Kentucky in tournament play. Lou was named captain of the team which also included former WVU and NBA great Jerry West.
When it comes to accolades he is a member of three hall of fames. The Wetzel County hall of Fame, the OVAC hall of fame, and the Marshall University hall of fame. Although he is member of all three for his accomplishments on the hardwood, he could easily have been there as a baseball player. His skill in baseball led him to the fastpitch softball leagues, where he went on to play in several world tournaments. Lou later served as the West Virginia Commissioner for the International Softball Conference (ISC).
During a visit with Lou this past year he mentioned some of the great athletes we have had in the area. His mind was sharp and he recalled many I had forgotten about. I particuarly liked the way he spoke about area coaches. He said he loved to coach and mentioned working with his daughter LuAnn when she was in school. He said he was asked to help coach the boys basketball team here at Magnolia, but was later told he couldn’t help or set on the bench due to not having a coaches certification.
I remember him putting on a basketball camp each year in New Martinsville where I’m sure many local kids learned the proper techniques in shooting and ball handling. It’s not very often that men (or women) like Lou come around, but when they do there will always be those who benefit from their skill and knowledge. I am saddened by his passing, just knowing him and often seeing him at a local basketball game, always made my day.
I enjoyed his visits to the office. Sometimes he would call, but regardless of how we spoke, I knew I would hear about two people in New Martinsville. He had a special fondness and graditude for Bill Forbes and Mark Blair. He relayed to me how Bill Forbes took him to Huntington for his academic achievement award ceremony. He was very happy about that. He also told me how Mark Blair would take him to ball games. He said he really enjoyed Mark and his son Zach. Lou said, those two guys would do anything for him.
And last but not least he always had a story to tell about his days out Rt. 20 playing basketball for old Pine Grove High School. Lou always mentioned his teammates and coaches and talked about shooting basketball on an old rim on the side of a garage. He said he loved playing against Paden City, and especially against Gary Cochran who he said was the best in the county. Then with a grin he said,” depending on who you talk to.”
Rest peacefully old friend you made Wetzel County proud.