Levi Philips, the man who scored the first points inside the WVU Coliseum, passed away earlier today due to an illness and is remembered by many members of the Mountaineer community.
Phillips, who was 69 years old and suffered from diabetes, played for Charleston High School and then took his talents to Morgantown to join the West Virginia men’s basketball program.
The guard began at Charleston High where he led his teams to a 72-3 record while winning 48 straight matchups in three years. What truly got Phillips to commit to the Mountaineers was a phone call from West Virginia great Ron “Fritz” Williams when the baller was only 17 years old.
While with the Mountaineers, Phillips saw action in the Coliseum’s first game on December 1, 1970 when West Virginia knocked off Colgate, 133-92. To give some context, some others that were playing on that team included Wil Robinson in the backcourt who recorded the most points on the day with 39, while forward Sam Oglesby banked in 12 points of his own.
Current head coach Bob Huggins was a close friend of Phillips and knows how talented the guard truly was.
“Levi was really good. He was fast in transition. He had great speed,” Huggins said.
For anyone that watches West Virginia basketball these days, it’s hard to imagine how talented Phillips really was and what he meant for the West Virginia basketball program. Phillips had good size for his guard position, could easily penetrate defenses and be a playmaker as well as run the fast break in an efficient manner.
In his freshman season in Morgantown, Phillips missed three games due to an ankle injury, but was still able to stand as the second leading scorer on the team with 17.2 points per game.
A close friend of Phillips, Andy Richardson always had a slew of great things to say about his longtime friend and where he came from in Charleston.
“Competitive athletics leads to great stories about teammates and games and he knew everybody in the community,” said Richardson, “He was a product of Washington Manor the old playground over there (Donnally Street) that turned out so many great players… He lived for years on the West Side.”
Levi Phillips was an athletic, fast, and aggressive guard who will be remembered inside the Mountaineer basketball family forever.
Photo from WVU Athletics