WVU’s Lamont West Healthy, Ready for Leadership Role
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was early one night last winter in the Coliseum, players out on the basketball court just sort of beginning to shoot around before the game.
Lamont West had come out and taken some shots and retired to a seat near the end of the West Virginia bench near the baseline. The chair in which he planted himself is probably five feet or so behind the sideline.
He called for someone to throw him a ball, which they did, and while seated there he launched one toward the basket.
It didn’t go in, bouncing off the rim. So he got another ball and again missed.
Third time’s a charm, they say, and so he took one more try and from that position seated out of bounds the ball went swish through the hoop.
Right then you knew that what people had always said about the Cincinnati kid was that he could score right off the bench… because he had done just that.
But what made what he did so special was that he did it with a wrist that encased a painful injury. It turned out to be three torn ligaments that would need surgery after the season ended.
Now it wasn’t too disabling, for the slender West played all 36 games in the season and shot roughly the same percentage he had as a freshman both in all shots and from 3-point range.
In fact, he didn’t even tell anyone about the problem when it first cropped up.
Why would he do that, you ask?
Glad you asked.
“I play for Bob Huggins,” West shrugged “You want to play, you play through the pain.”
In fact, Huggins inflicts pain in the form of trips to the stationary bike when you do things wrong in practice both to remind a player to do things the way they are supposed to do things and also to the team to play through hard times.
And that’s what West did.
“I shot decent last year,” he said, finishing the year at 9.8 points a game in 22 minutes per contest. “I could have shot better.”
That was obvious when he made one of three from a seated on the bench.
“It was all right last year. I can’t really complain about it. I did what I had to do over the summer and it feels good,” he said, noting it feels 100% now.
This is his junior season, which makes it an important season for him for with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. gone, the team is in search of a leader and he understands he is one of those whom they will look toward.
“Yeah,” he admits, “I feel like I’ve been here a long time.”
As such he’s seen the likes of Devin Williams and Carter weave their leadership magic. He believes he knows how to take the reins of a team.
“First you have to tell people what they are supposed to do and lead in the right direction,” he said. “You have to do it by example. If you tell them to go hard and you really aren’t going hard they aren’t going to listen.”
Like everyone else who still has the taste of that troubling season-ending NCAA loss to Villanova, the eventual national champion, in their mouths, he wants to get started, maybe even more so as he had a 3 for 13 shooting night with 1 of 8 from 3-point range in a game the Mountaineers lost by 12 points.
He believes this year’s team has big promise, build around him and Sagaba Konate and Esa Ahmad, who make up maybe the most talented and experienced front court in the Big 12.
But, he says, you can’t just focus on that.
“We got a lot of good guards,” he said. “We feel a lot of them can contribute something different to the team. We got scorers, we got passers. We got whatever you need.”
What they don’t have, though, is Jevon Carter and everyone on the team knows the void that creates.
“There’s not too many like JC,” West said. “JC was different. We got guys who are good, but you talk about defense, that was JC.”
And so, in the end, the test will be on the defensive side for WVU, and that is what will decide the fate of this year’s team.