Wednesday, April 10, 2002

West won't leave Xavier for NBA

All-American center changes his mind

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        How's this for a heartstopper? At the close of Xavier's basketball banquet Tuesday night, David West strode to the podium, unannounced, and said he had something to say. Between tears, it was this: “I'm staying.”

img • Second-team All-American: AP, Basketball Times, USBWA
• Third-team All-American: NABC, Sporting News, Basketball America
• All-American:
• Atlantic 10 player of the year, defensive player of the year, tournament most valuable player.
        Nearly everyone in the Cintas Center banquet room was stunned. Especially coach Thad Matta, whom West had told a day earlier he was declaring for early entry in the NBA draft.

        But after telling Matta that and even discussing how best to prepare a statement to the media, XU's junior center returned to his apartment and spent much of Monday night talking to his closest teammates, Lionel Chalmers and Anthony Coleman.

        He said he talked to Coleman for three hours and Chalmers for five hours. West went to bed at 3a.m. Tuesday having second thoughts.

        “They didn't try to talk me out of it,” West said. “But some of the things they said stuck with me.”

        By the time West awoke, he said, he felt he couldn't leave his teammates.

        West, a second-team All-American, would have been the first player in XU history to leave early for the NBA. Instead, his decision means XU will return four starters from a Top 25 team — perhaps the strongest team on paper in school history.

        “I feel like we can do some damage nationally next year; I really believe that,” West said.

        Said Matta: “I was definitely stunned. (His return) is a testimony to his unselfishness and his teammates. ... It also shows his desire to be the best. There are still things at Xavier he feels he needs to do.”

        West had been projected as a mid- to late-first-round pick if he declared for the draft.

        “This decision was probably the toughest of my life,” West said.


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