A look at: Jonnie West

BlueGoldNews.com watched the games of the Red Oxen at West Virginia's basketball camp last week. Here's a look at an individual player and what he might bring to the Mountaineers this season. Now, hitting cleanup and stroking threes, Jonnie West.

Shooter. Pure and simple, that's what West brings to the Mountaineers. He can hit from anywhere beyond the three-point arc, and do it at a scarily consistent rate. He isn't a step-back guy, and he won't create his own shot often because he lacks the ball-handling ability, quickness and body to drive into a defender, then stop and hit a quick-release jump shot. It's simply not his game, and likely never will be.

A system player, West is best rolling of screens or getting one set for him in front of a defender, where he can receive a pass and let fly a stroke that is the already the finest on the team. It was difficult to identify where West most likes to shoot from, because he made three-pointers from the corner to the wings and straight-away. But just to the right of the top of the key seemed to be a favored place, if for no other reason than that is where the right-hander was when he played point in place of Joe Mazulla. Four times in one game, West dribbled down the court and merely pulled up and drained shots from 22-plus feet.

West hit six of seven three-pointers in one game, but started slowly in two others. He missed his first three shots in the latter contests, only to rebound and hit at least three three-pointers in five made shots in the games. Until the six three-point performance, it seemed West needed time to test the rims and find the right bounce and shot. He is as deadly as former WVU sixth-man Patrick Beilein, but not as built. And since, at just 6-3, he won't be able to shoot over players like Kevin Pittsnogle did, West will need help just getting open.

West is also lighter (155 pounds) and not as strong as Beilein, even when the coaches son was a frosh, and the pounding of Big East play means he is the player most fit for a redshirt year. He will surely add strength and weight – he couldn't be any thinner – thought it might take multiple years before he can really bulk up. The question remains, as one poster noted on the boards, rather West can break away from defenders, or if the clutch-and-grab conference defense will render him useless around screens, making all but the occasional open shot from deep insignificant.

Defense will also be an early liability. Opposing players will drive by and him and body-up on his slight frame, and anything in the lane will spell trouble. West can assert himself in West Virginia's system because of his heady play and basketball knowledge. He will certainly be unselfish, but his passing won't be as effective because he cannot yet drive-and-dish back outside. It will likely be other players, like Darris Nichols or Desean Butler, who are driving and drawing to kick back for West's open threes.

West also played in a private league for Lausanna Collegiate School in Memphis (where his father, Jerry West, is now in his fourth season as president of the NBA's Grizzlies), where the competition is not as difficult as in private, usually Catholic, leagues in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey or New York. He ahs not played against the athleticism that he will see, even from West Virginia's players, so there will be some acclimating to the tempo and rhythm of the games, a factor important to what could be a streak shooter.

A Scout.com three-star player, West is unranked at his shooting guard spot. But WVU, under fifth-year head coach John Beilein, has done more with less. He is fundamentally sound, likely thanks to teaching from his father, and has been around NBA players enough to know the game. And commitment, competitiveness and a team-first attitude seem naturally-suited to West's "just-win" demeanor.

In the end, however, it will be the newcomer's ability to add weight and strength and stay in front of others defensively that decides how much he can play. Patrick Beilein was able to add enough to his game to be a major contributor for WVU – and he was forced to play as a true freshman. With another season, West, already a better shooter, could threaten to do the same.

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