Thursday, April 11, 2002
West's decision to stay rare treat
David West filled out the form. He affixed a stamp to the envelope. He made his decision to turn pro and he notified all of the appropriate parties.
But he never could muster the conviction to sign his application for the NBA. And he never did summon the strength to stick it in the mail. He had the form but not the follow-through.
West thought disclosing his intention to leave Xavier before his senior year would release him from the stress of decision-making. Instead, he found his burden undiminished and his sleep restless.
Even as Xavier sports information director Tom Eiser drafted the press release detailing his departure, West was still waffling.
You go to bed at night and you want to wake up feeling, "This is the right thing to do,' West said Wednesday afternoon. That didn't happen.
Big choice, little sleep
West went to bed Monday night imagining Xavier in his rear-view mirror. He woke up to the realization that it made more sense to stay. Life decisions are seldom as simple as they appear to other people. For David West, the experience was excruciating.
David West put his team ahead of himself.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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I thought maybe I was done with college basketball, he said. I felt like I've been here long enough. This was just an opportunity to play at that (NBA) level. ... I had my mind made up for about a week.
No single factor changed his mind. No specific remark caused him to recant. West weighed the lure of immediate wealth versus the prospect of bigger money through patience. He examined the competitive impact his loss would have on his teammates and the pain he found on their faces. He considered the counsel of pro players, who made the pro game sound like a succession of dreary games punctuated by large paydays.
He thought things through. And then he re-thought things through. On the basketball court, David West is a player of spontaneous reactions and unfiltered feelings. Off the court, his emotions are tempered by objective analysis.
More money may await
Based on the input of pro scouts, West projected himself as a mid-range first-round pick in the draft. Studying the league's rookie wage scale, he figured his slot would bring a $1 million contract. With prospective agents offering cars and apartments and companies dangling endorsement deals, the temptation was terrific.
But West also understood that he might turn $1 million into $3 million with another year on campus; that he could expand his game from the low post to the perimeter and make himself a more useful commodity; that a second-team All-American still has room for advancement, and that Xavier is positioned to mount a monster season.
It's taken me 'til this year for us to get the respect we have now, West said. I felt if I left, next year they're back to scratch. ... If I take myself out of the picture, I'd let the guys down.
How quaint to find a college basketball star as concerned for the team as his own ego. How refreshing to find a modern-day Musketeer true to the tradition of all for one and one for all.
How hard it will be to beat Xavier next season.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Past columns at www.enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.
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