Thursday, April 11, 2002

West: Next year could be XU's best

Junior's return prompts talk of Top 10, Elite Eight

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

'I want to see exactly how good this team could be and see where we could go,' says David West.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        David West was, for a year, turning down millions. It was because they couldn't quite pay off an I.O.U.

        “Maybe I owe these (Xavier teammates) another year ... an opportunity to be on top,” West said Wednesday.

        The second-team All-American's dramatic announcement Tuesday night, when he changed his mind and said he would stay for his senior season, came in large part because of the opportunity for next season's team to make history.

        “I want to see exactly how good this team could be and see where we could go,” he said.

        For a program that has reached the Sweet 16 (1990) just once, this shapes up as perhaps its most loaded team ever. XU will return four starters and 84 percent of its scoring from a Top 25 team that won 21 of its last 24 games. It will have All-American candidates in West (18.3 ppg) and its second-leading scorer Romain Sato (16.1). It loses two scholarship players, Kevin Frey and Alvin Brown, yet adds six — a payoff for going shorthanded this season.

        “We're thinking Top 10, easily,” freshman forward Anthony Coleman said. “We know that Sweet 16 team (of '90) is the standard to be measured by. But nothing less than the Elite Eight is going to be good enough.”

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.
        Said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas: “I don't see why they couldn't be in (the Top 10). And I think David's going to be one of the favorites for national player of the year. He can be one of the most dominant post players in the game.”

        Only one player on the Associated Press' first team might return to college next season: Kansas' Drew Gooden, who may yet declare for the draft. Of West's fellow second-teamers, only Duke's Mike Dunleavy doesn't yet have his name in the draft.

        “That (award possibility) is in the back of my mind,” West said. “Because that stuff comes if the team is successful. We've gotta win basketball games.”

        A concern this season was the lack of frontcourt depth, as the willowy 6-foot-10 Coleman (1.4 ppg) served as the only backup for West and Frey. Five of the six new players will be big men.

(AP photo)
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        The 6-9 West should be able to move from center to power forward, giving him time to work on his skills facing the basket in preparation for the position he'll play in the NBA.

        “I don't think I'll have such a load — have to get every rebound, block every shot, kind of control the middle,” West said. “It won't be so much on my shoulders.”

        Three of those five incoming big men have had a taste of the college game: 6-10 Randy Holbrook and 6-9 Anthony Myles are junior-college products, and 6-9 Will Caudle practiced with the team this winter as a partial qualifier.

        The other incoming big men are 6-7 forward Brandon Cole and 6-8 forward Angelo Smith.

        But having that help isn't the reason West is returning.

        “It's taken me three years for us to get the respect we have now,” West said. “I felt like if I left, next year they're back to scratch.

        “But with me here, my fourth year would be the year you all would look forward to as far as being one of the best teams in the country. The sky's the limit.”


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