The forward seemed almost unsure of himself at times as a true freshman last year, even in the brief glimpses attained during the Gold-Blue Debut or simple warm-ups and initial portions of practice. The coaching staff took notice, and redshirted the Cincinnati native, allowing his coordination, build and understanding of the game begin to catch up with his physical stature. At a listed 6-8 (West himself claims 6-9), the lanky front court player has started to prove his ability to contribute on the floor for more than mere stretches.
West is one of just seven Mountaineers to appear in all nine games thus far, averaging 12 minutes with a productive 7.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. The dozen minutes per game, in fact, are less than one minute off the floor time seen by a far more established player in Elijah Macon, and the points are the seventh-most on a team that routinely plays 10-plus players into double digit minutes. West has also been one of the most dependable shooters on the team, hitting 43.8 percent overall, including 7-of-22 from three-point range. He's also hit 81.8 percent from the free throw line at 18-of-22.
"I try and shoot the ball as much as I can on my off time so I can translate it to the game," West said. "I work on them, so I should make them. That's the goal. With people on you, you should still make it if you work on it. It's really second nature. I have somebody try and guard me when I shoot, and I'm 6-9, so I can shoot over people."
That was part of a series of goals going into the offseason that have thus far translated into a key bench role for No. 12 West Virginia (8-1), which faces a different style of test against a hot outside shooting foe in UMKC at home on Saturday.
"I tried to understand the game better, to know my role on this team," West said of his improvements, both between his freshman and redshirt freshman seasons and though the initial portions of this year's schedule. "I bring energy off the bench. I come in and play defense. I make shots."
It's those two bookends that stand out to the layman. West has provided a bit of a spark, similar to what Teyvon Myers did last season, and he's been able to infuse the offense with some timely scoring, such as when he hit a big three from the wing in West Virginia's 11-2 closing stretch in the upset victory at then-No. 6 Virginia. But to play for head coach Bob Huggins, one must play defense, and that's an aspect West has vastly improved upon in the offseason. West has used his length and body positioning to routinely corral defensive boards, as well as manage five steals and three blocks against just two turnovers. That he also has eight assists shows a solid all-around game, and a dependability that his minutes will yield solid contributions not offset by multiple miscues.
"Our goal is to get better as a team, put it together so we can compete and hopefully win the Big 12," West said of the goals over the final three nonconference games before the commencement of league play. "We just want to work on us. (UMKC) is a good team; they play hard and they make shots. So we have to be prepared for that. I would say they are better than the last teams we have played. They bring more intensity, from what I have watched, and they make more shots."