Fast-changing scoreboards, fast breaks and pressure defenses made Willie Akers a state favorite
Who was one of the ring leaders of fast-paced basketball in West Virginia for nearly 40 years? Willie Akers, now 83 years young, that’s who.
Akers held the reins of fast breaking teams at three different places and three different stages of his basketball life.
As a player at Mullens High School in Wyoming County he was recognized as a tall 6-foot-5 inside force, making the all-tournament team at three straight state tournaments and leading the Rebels to a state championship in 1955 as a junior.
Mullens couldn’t win another state title in 1956, because Jerry West and East Bank claimed the state championship that season.
As one of the state’s best players, Akers was recruited to West Virginia University by coach Fred Schaus. He played on the undefeated freshmen team of 1956-57 and then joined the varsity for the next three seasons, playing his last games for the Mountaineers in 1959-1960.
The crowd-pleasing records in his three years on the varsity were 26-2, 29-5 and 26-5. The 1959 team eventually lost by one point in the NCAA national championship game against California.
After finishing his career with WVU, he played one professional season with the Pittsburgh Rens.
A few short years after his one year with the Rens, Akers was hired to coach at basketball-crazy Logan High School, the place with the 3,000-seat field house and people who would tell you they bled the blue and yellow of the Logan Wildcats.
It didn’t take long for Logan to be known as “Willie’s Wild and Wonderful Wildcats” in connection with one of the state’s monikers, “Wild and Wonderful.”
Logan was a town of about 3,000 people, and the state’s high school governing body for high school sports often couldn’t supply the high school with enough tickets for the state basketball tournaments the Wildcats usually qualified for in Akers’ 25-year tenure at their get-it-and-go helm.
In one year, Logan High School was given 1,600 tickets, and was said to have 4,000 people at a much-anticipated state tournament game against Clarksburg’s Washington-Irving High School.
Logan fired out to a 34-6 lead, with its jet-paced fast break and points-fueled pressure all over the Charleston Civic Center floor.
Washington-Irving quickly answered the withering pace of Willie’s Wildcats, scoring 39 points in the second quarter alone.
Logan held a precarious 61-49 lead at the half, as the still-buzzing crowd headed to the concession stands.
The final count showed Logan 111 and Washington-Irving 87 — and there were no three-point field goals in that season.
In Akers’ 25 years, the hometown favorite Wildcats won four state championships, along with being runners-up a number of other times.
His win-loss record was 402-116, a 77.6 percent winning percentage.
After his coaching career was complete, Akers served terms on the county school board.
Fast break basketball. Whirlwind changes of direction with his full court pressure defense. Akers’ teams were nothing, if not entertaining. And Logan loved his Wild Wonderful Wildcats.