Skip to main content
Original Issue

It Says Here West Is Best A contrary case is made for Xavier's potent power forward, David West

There was a time, not very long ago, when David West would have
been considered a long shot for national player of the year. For
all the NBA workhorses that Xavier has produced (Brian Grant,
Tyrone Hill, James Posey), the Musketeers have always been a
regional delicacy in the manner of Skyline Chili, another
Cincinnati institution. What's more, none of those previous
Muskies standouts possessed the transcendent talent necessary to
hit the escape velocity required of national PoY boys.

David West does. As electrifying as Texas's T.J. Ford and
Marquette's Dwyane Wade may be, no player in the country has
combined the classic hoops attributes--power and finesse, scoring
and rebounding, passing and defense--the way the 6'9", 240-pound
senior West has. In a game nearly bereft of big men, he is a
rarity: a complete post player. You can tell by checking West's
stats (through Sunday, 20.4 points, 11.9 boards, 3.3 assists and
a team-leading 1.4 steals a game). Or, better yet, just watch him
slowly impose his will on an opponent, like a champion chess
player. "He's so patient," says Xavier coach Thad Matta. "Here's
a guy who's scored 2,000 points, and I still say he's the most
unselfish player that I've ever coached."

If we needed convincing that West has that extra something--the
big-game mojo--to be called the best player in the land, he
displayed it for us last month in a pair of showdowns against
Atlantic 10 rival Dayton. On Feb. 8 in Cincinnati, Flyers coach
Oliver Purnell opted to defend West one-on-one. West responded
with the single-game performance of the year: 47 points and 18
rebounds in the Musketeers' 85--77 victory. Chastened, the Flyers
double-teamed West in Dayton on Feb. 22, and though his numbers
went down (What, only 27 and eight?), West's 3-for-3 three-point
shooting, deft passing, three blocked shots and nose for loose
balls helped No. 10 Xavier (24--4 through Sunday) earn the season
sweep with a 73--72 win.

Says Purnell, whose Flyers (an NCAA tournament sleeper) are no
lambs, "Defending him one-on-one is almost impossible because
he's such an excellent post-up player with quickness. But if you
double him, he's a tremendous passer who can find his teammates
on the weak side and perimeter."

Poisoning West's chili may be the only remaining option. In the
Musketeers' 88--80 win at St. Joseph's on March 5, West overcame
the Hawks' early double teams (he had only one first-half basket)
to score 10 of his 25 points in overtime. Part of the credit for
West's poise under fire, he says, goes to a discussion he had
with Matta after deciding to return to Xavier last summer. "The
game is bigger than one or two possessions," West explains, "and
realizing that has really helped me this year."

In that same meeting coach and player set a number of goals for
West, one of which was to win the national player of the year
award. By displaying the widest range of skills and producing the
singular feat of the season, West has done enough by my lights to
earn it. --Grant Wahl

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS X FACTOR Against St. Joe's, West struggled early but dominated inovertime.