Morgantown, W.Va.- Every child has dreams that he or she hopes will come true one day. Sometimes those dreams become a reality, and sometimes they don’t, but the West Virginia Mountaineers made a dream of five-year-old Nicholas Wince come true.
West Virginia signed Wince as its newest member of the basketball program on Tuesday afternoon.
The Middlebourne native sat at a table at center court of the Coliseum surrounded by TV cameras. Coach Bob Huggins sat alongside his new recruit and Wince’s new teammates gathered behind them and cheered.
“We’ve been watching you and we want you to be a Mountaineer,” Huggins said.
The little boy smiled ear-to-ear and it was apparent that his ultimate wish became a reality.
“It’s really neat,” said Huggins. “I think it’s part of the culture here. Most kids want to go to Disneyworld. I understand that. It’s great. It’s great that kids think enough, that are wishful enough to be able to be here and be a part of the West Virginia basketball.”
The littlest Mountaineer has been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is a disease that develops at birth that affects normal blood flow through the heart.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention one out of 4,344 in the United States is born with this condition.
Nick Wince’s special day was made possible thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Most people believe that Make-A-Wish only grants wishes to terminally ill children, but they also do so for seriously ill children.
“It has a profound impact on them,” Leandra Hickman, the Make-A-Wish regional director said. “We believe their wish can empower them to fight harder and keep trying and see that anything is possible.”
“In Nick’s case, it’s if I can wish to be a Mountaineer and have it happen, I can take on that next surgery or treatment I have to have. That’s what we really believe and we’ve seen it happen time and time again.”
Nick Wince’s adventure as a Mountaineer started on Monday. He went bowling and ate lunch with Michael Garcia, the Mountaineer mascot, and met WVU President E.Gordon Gee, who gave the young lad his very own bowtie.
He then toured the football facility, got to run through the inflated helmet, met with some current and former football players like Quincy Wilson and received an autographed football.
Before officially becoming a Mountaineer on Tuesday, Nick got a tour of the practice facility just like any other recruit.
“He was blown away sitting on the balcony overlooking the courts,” Huggins said.
He got to compare his shoe to his favorite player Devin Williams’ size 19 shoe. Nick also got to lift weights and shoot with his future teammates. They lowered one of the baskets so Nick could shoot at it.
“He was down with the bigs. They did a great job with them. He was shooting balls with them. Devin was picking him up and letting him dunk,” Huggins said. “He loves Devin. He kept saying, ‘When’s the guy with the goggles coming?’”
Next, Nick got to participate in the team’s walk through practice prior to the game against Texas.
He threw some alley-oops to Jonathan Holton and his new teammates.
And then Nick signed his name on the dotted line and officially became a West Virginia Mountaineer.
Nick and his family joined the players for some pre-game food. He ate with his new buddy Devin Williams and even got to wear his goggles.
Nick warmed up with his teammates prior to the game. He participated in pre-game stretches and threw passes to Jevon Carter. He even earned an assist on a Daxter Miles Jr. three-pointer.
The new No. 5 was awarded with a trophy prior to the game and got to run on the court with his new teammates before watching them beat Texas.
It was a win-win day for both the Mountaineers and Nick Wince.
“Our guys loved having him there and having him around,” Huggins said. “It was really neat and he came in the locker room after the game and they were all over him.”