Friends called it the perfect setting. Hundreds of people packed the Lee Arena stands and Gregory "Buzz" Wilson held a place of attention at center court.
Only Wednesday, the people in the stands had tears in their eyes, and Wilson was resting inside a casket draped in blue and white flowers. A basketball hoop had been moved to the side, a minute left on the clock, the number "44," the number Wilson wore as a Washburn University player, also displayed.
Wilson first stepped onto the Washburn court as a 28-year old freshman. Wednesday's final appearance, at age 50, those in attendance agreed, came far too soon. He passed away Saturday of complications from heat-related illness after playing several softball games.
Wilson rose from AAU and rec leagues to become part of Washburn's 1987 national championship team. He never lost that love of competition. Ray McKamy, who officiated the service, said that if Wilson wasn't playing a game, he was organizing a team or a game or starting some one-on-one in the driveway. He said Wilson's daughter, Anjanae, told him her father was probably already starting a league in heaven.
Those speaking at the service said family was Wilson's other love. As much as he thrived on athletic competition, Anjanae, his wife Brenda and son Collin meant even more. They recalled how his children were the lights of his life. They also noted how he loved to mentor young people through athletics. A youth team in uniform lined a row of seats to illustrate that point.
Doug Hutchinson, who was an assistant coach when Wilson played and remained friends with him, said Wilson made the most of a second chance and everyone else got to enjoy the ride.
"I'm grateful that I was part of his life," Hutchinson said. "I miss him."
Memorial contributions can be made to the Collin Wilson College Fund, c/o Davidson Funeral Home, 1035 N. Kansas Ave., Topeka, KS, 66608.