David West is your father's basketball player. At 6'8", 232 pounds, Xavier's sophomore center hardly towers over the competition, but he led the Atlantic 10 in rebounds last year, and this season he was fourth in the nation (11.3 per game) through Sunday. He doesn't have explosive speed, and he doesn't jump out of the gym, but he leads the conference in shooting (53.9%), averages a team-leading 17.8 points per game and is the main reason the Musketeers were in second place in the conference with a 10-3 record (19-5 overall). "I'm not the flashiest guy, but I'm efficient," he says. "I'd rather be efficient than anything else."
Efficiency is hard to calculate and harder to discern, which is why most college recruiters failed to notice West until midway through his postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. West moved into Hargrave's starting lineup that season only because two players were kicked off the team, and Xavier coach Skip Prosser didn't offer him a scholarship until a Musketeer decided to transfer. Now West appears destined to join Brian Grant, Tyrone Hill and James Posey on the list of Xavier alumni who are succeeding in the NBA.
"You could make a case for David West as player of the year and most improved player in our league," says St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli. "He's almost like a point center. A lot of big guys will throw it only to the person who passed to them, but David finds guys all over the floor."
West says he has always been a "pass-first guy," a by-product of his days playing point guard before he underwent a six-inch growth between his freshman and sophomore years at Teaneck ( N.J.) High. After West's family moved from Teaneck to Garner, N.C., the summer before his junior year, he decided he was through with organized basketball. The coach at Garner High changed West's mind, but two seasons later West was still too frail—at 6'8", 200 pounds—to be considered a big-time prospect. He wisely decided to take a postgrad year to improve his lot.
Asked what it was like to raise David, his mother, Harriett, sighs and replies, "A challenge." When David was a child, he would think nothing of climbing a neighborhood utility pole or hanging from a tree limb by his feet. He remains a font of frenetic energy. Scott Shepherd, Hargrave's coach during West's time there, frequently had to order West to stop moving during practices when Shepherd was speaking. West's teammate and roommate at Xavier, 6-foot sophomore Lionel Chalmers, recalls West "screaming and sweating" while coaching a meaningless game at Prosser's youth camp last summer. "He has to be on the go all the time," Chalmers says.
After Xavier lost by seven points at Duquesne last season, Prosser walked into the locker room and found his freshman delivering a wall-punching, locker-slamming tirade at his older teammates. "I was stunned because I didn't know he had that in him," Prosser says. Ever since then the Musketeers have known what to do at the first sign of trouble: Go West.