WVU’s West Gets Boost From Mom’s Presence
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are some stories that are worth repeating because they just keep repeating themselves, and so it is that we look in again on West Virginia forward Lamont West.
See the way this story normally goes is that there’s a young boy whose father played a sport, either starred in it and wanted his son to reach such heights or who wasn’t as good but wanted to see his son have the success that he so wanted for himself.
Sometimes, though, that story goes in a different direction, which brings us around to West, now a WVU junior preparing to face Rider in Wednesday night’s 6:30 p.m. game at the Coliseum.
It was West’s mother, Tonya Kirk, who was a four-year starter and leader on Purdue’s 1994 Final Four team.
As noted earlier, the focus of this tale, though, is one we’ve been through before.
About a year ago West Virginia was playing Texas and West had been struggling badly. He had followed a 21-point game with games of three, six, zero and three points against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech.
Coach Huggins decided to bring him off the bench against Texas and all he did was pump in a career high 23 points with 7 of 10 field goals, 6 of 8 of them from 3-point range.
Did we mention that in the stands that day to see her son play was his mother?
“Every game she’s ever been to, I always play like this,” West said then. “If she comes, I always try to impress her. I always want to play my best.”
Fast forward last Thursday against St. Joseph’s in Myrtle Beach. Again West was struggling, his wrist hurting from some off-season surgery. After opening the season with 22 points, he had scored only seven in the next two games including going scoreless in 22 minutes against Monmouth and then hitting but 1 of 6 shots against Western Kentucky.
Huggins decided to have him come off the bench again.
“I just thought he was feeling a lot of pressure and it was more internal than external,” Huggins said before Tuesday’s practice for Rider. “He felt we needed to him to make shots and was struggling. I thought if he could sit there a little bit and watch, maybe get a step in shot it would help.
“It did. It worked.”
Indeed it did, for West set another career high with 27 points, hitting 7 of 11 threes on this occasion.
And no, you don’t have ask. His mother was in attendance at this game, too.
“I’ll tell you this,” Huggins said. “The guys here want to win. They hear you’re not JC, you’re not Dax, you’re not Nate … and it does affect them, so I try to back it off a little.”
It is a bit different when it’s your mom and not your dad who was a Final Four player, though.
“Obviously, when your mom likes basketball, you’re going to watch a lot of basketball,” Huggins said when asked what difference it might make. “Now my house was different, my dad controlled the TV. It was very much a dictatorship. But his mom, liking the game and being good at it was good for him.”
The thing was, West wasn’t really into basketball early.
“Everybody talked about her as a player and everyone wanted to get me into basketball,”he said. “At first, I didn’t even like basketball. But I started to like it more when I got better.”
She let him develop naturally.
“She didn’t push me. She let me do what I wanted, but once I started playing me she put in the right position with the right people,” he said.
Huggins admits that he almost missed on West.
“His whole thing was he grew. I went in and watched Withrow High practice and I never noticed him. Then all of a sudden he started growing and growing. He grew late,” Huggins said.
And, being from Cincinnati, once Huggins, the former Cincinnati coach, got into it the recruiting was over.
“It came down to us and a couple of people but basically it came down to her saying ‘You’re gonna play for Huggs,’” Huggins said.
Now, West would like to get to his own Final Four but, if he can’t, he’d like to at least let her come to see him playing some games in the NBA.