Friday, March 15, 2002

Future is now for West

Hawaii, not NBA, on his mind

        DALLAS ’— David West has made his decision. He's not going to talk about next season until this season is over. He's not going to do anything to detract from Xavier's tournament run until that run has run its course.

        He will continue to live in the moment until the future grabs him by the collar for a confrontation. He is too considerate to act otherwise.

        “I'm just worried about winning games,” the Musketeers' formidable forward said Thursday. “When you start looking ahead, it takes away from the team.”

        On the basketball court, David West is the most transparent of players. His emotions sit on the surface like a colorful catamaran, constantly buffeted by the tide of events. It's only when the topic of turning pro comes up that West moves into submarine mode.

        He stops making eye contact and starts mouthing polite, practiced evasions. His smile says the thought has crossed his mind but that his thoughts aren't ready to leave his lips. He's unable to say anything definitive and he's unwilling to make promises he might have to retract later. He's like a Hollywood star being questioned about a rumored romance ’— all charm, no candor.

        The smart money says West stays at Xavier for his senior season. The big money, however, has yet to make itself heard. The serious arm-twisting shouldn't start for another month.

        ’“I don't think it's a matter of convincing him to do anything,”’Lionel Chalmers said of his close friend and teammate.’“I think it's a matter of him being comfortable with the situation’— and he is. I can't read his mind and I don't know what's most important to him, but I'm pretty sure he's having fun.

        ’“I don't know why people phrase it as him, "coming back one more year.' You're just putting it in his head.”

        The question comes up because it's unavoidable. When he was named a second-team All-American Tuesday by the Associated Press, West attained an honor never before conferred on a Xavier basketball player. He already is covered under the NCAA's Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance program as a projected first-round draft choice and has the kind of inside game that makes scouts salivate. In previewing today's tournament matchup with the Musketeers, the University of Hawaii's postseason tournament guide said West, ’“is expected to enter the NBA draft.”

        Big scoop or bold speculation?

        ’“I don't know anybody in Hawaii,” West said.

        Many of those who know David West believe he will stay in school because his game still has room to grow and that growth could translate into tens of millions of dollars. If he leaves, he probably becomes another well-paid guy at the end of an NBA bench. If he waits a year, he might hit the lottery.

        ’“If he comes back,” Xavier coach Thad Matta said, ’“I think he's the best player in the country.”

        To help persuade West to exhaust his eligibility, Matta plans to tailor next year's team around his star's development. He has recruited enough junior college size to allow West to move further out on the floor, to polish his perimeter game, to raise his skill level to NBA standards. The risk of returning, of course, is catastrophic injury ’— the Kenyon Martin experience. That risk is mitigated, at least in part, by the NCAA's insurance program. According to Juanita Sheely, an analyst for the NCAA, a player projected as a high lottery pick is eligible for up to $4.4 million of disability coverage.

        Whether David West applies for more insurance or the NBA draft is a decision for another day. Today, he has a game.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or e-mail:


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Oklahoma 71, Illinois-Chicago 63
Ragtag Muskies prepare to dance
- SULLIVAN: Future is now for West
Success starts with Chalmers

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