When Lamont West Lamont West arrived on West Virginia's campus last year, he had designs on cracking the Mountaineer basketball depth chart. Like every other high school standout, West had belief in his abilities, and felt he was ready to make the transition to Division I. However, after early workouts and practices, West and head coach Bob Huggins met to discuss his immediate future. Like any get-together that takes a hard, unflinching look at a personal situation, it wasn't easy for West to take part in.
From the outside perspective, the choice appeared logical. WVU was stocked with forwards, including Jonathan Holton, Nathan Adrian and Esa Ahmad. With a trio of bigger bodies (Devin Williams, Elijah Macon, Brandon Watkins) inside, there simply weren't going to be many chances for him to contribute. Thus, as the meeting unfolded, the choice crystallized.
"It was difficult, but we had to come to the decision whether it was beneficial for me to play, and what my minutes would look like,” West said as he recalled one of the tougher moments of his athletic life. “We came to the agreement that I would redshirt and work to get better.”
That sounds simple, but to categorize it as such is to ignore the impact on West – or on any player put in that position. While the words never come out, the decision hangs in the air: 'You're not good enough to play.' The phrase 'right now' should be added to that, but even with that modifier, the overall decision can be a tough one to swallow.
The potential for a lost year in that situation isn't one to be ignored, either. Precociousness, not patience, is the name of the game in college hoops, and learning that a year is to be spent in apprenticeship mode might send some into reverse. West, though, didn't suffer that, or allow it to hurt his progress.
“I wanted to play as soon as I got here. But we made the decision that it was better for me to sit out, and I guess it worked out,” he admitted. “I am real excited about getting out there. I just want to play my hardest and show coach what he was missing out on last year.”
He's done just that in his first two games. Showing a heretofore unsuspected ability to knock down shots, West put up 12 points in just nine minutes of action against Mississippi Valley State. He was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line, and also dished out two assists as he maximized his time on the court. He also showed the ability to knock down three pointers in WVU's introduction in Wheeling and exhibition game in Beckley, and although he has made just one through two contests this year he believes he can make that a regular part of his game.
”I'm not out there hunting shots. Twelve points, that's decent,” he said as he looked over his line in the box score.
It's a good start, even one that was delayed for a year. The benefits, though, could far outweigh the difficulties by the time he's through.
”Now,” he said, neatly summarizing the decision, “I have four years.”