LOGAN, W.Va. — The life-threatening fall that left Willie Akers with a broken vertebra and in peril of never walking again hasn’t dampened the 75-year-old’s outlook.
The former WVU basketball standout, who became a coaching legend by winning 400 games and four state titles at Logan County High, returned home this weekend after 90 days of surgery and physical rehab. And despite being wheelchair-bound as he regains mobility, Akers was planning a visit Monday afternoon to the Logan County Commission where he’s serving a six-year term.
He said he felt uplifted by concerns pouring in from former teammates and players and other WVU alumni. While Akers underwent physical therapy at a specialized facility in Atlanta, he received a get-well basket from the local WVU alumni chapter and he said current Mountaineers basketball coach Bob Huggins even “sent me a big box of West Virginia stuff and I wore that every day.”
“I really appreciate the people of West Virginia,” Akers said on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday.
Akers spent time on a ventilator as he awaited neurosurgery after he fell Feb. 13 inside the Charleston Civic Center, a place where he had watched countless basketball games.
“I fell in a place that I like,” Akers joked.
The challenges brought about by the accident — Akers experienced paralysis in all of his limbs and even had to relearn to swallow food — were daunting. But the outreach from family and colleagues provided a silver lining, and now he’s home, spending more time with his wife Linda, his most demanding therapy coach.
“The (rehab) staff in Atlanta loved her,” he said, “because she was always working me hard, trying to be the boss like she does, and of course I always submit to that.”