Tuesday, November 19, 2002

West a leader on court, on bench

After the 10-foot fadeaway jumper, after the driving, left-handed layup off the glass, after the running bank shot in the lane, after all that, David West figured he might coach a little. Xavier was up 35 with 54 seconds to play, impossibly ahead, and West was on the sidelines, giving his teammates the news.

"I was telling guys to crash the offensive boards, to keep playing hard no matter what," West said. "And to get my man Ryan (Caldwell) the ball."

Ryan Caldwell is a fourth-year walk-on who had six career points until he scored with 28 seconds left Monday night. Now he has eight. And West wrote Chapter 1 of his last college story.

"We have a chance to be great," he said.

Xavier's David West reacts to a questionable call Monday.
(Mike Simons photo)
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If you turn down a chance to make a lot of money to chase something less tangible and more valuable, such as a lifetime memory, you don't want to waste time. If you turn down NBA gold to play your senior year, you're a little more aware of the details. There are no more dress rehearsals.

So there was West, acting like a coach, thinking like a coach, understanding that playing hard all the time is an acquired taste. Knowing that as good as Xavier is predicted to be, the Musketeers aren't so good that they can coast.

"That's the way I'm going to be on them," West said. "No matter what the score is, I want us playing defense and working."

He's a lot like his coach that way. Thad Matta is a pleasant guy, but he's about as relaxed as the bar exam.

Rousing start

Xavier smashed St.Peter's 87-48. Against the Peacocks, the Muskies were a runway model in a line of bag ladies. The rout was anticipated.

Matta liked the Muskies on Monday, generally. Specifically, "A couple times offensively, we didn't flow," he said. And, "We had a couple breakdowns on defense. St.Peter's made us pay for that."

Yeah, if Xavier had really fallen apart, the Peacocks might have lost by 35.

But Matta's point isn't lost on his senior star and rich-man-in-waiting.

"This team has to play together if we're going to win," West said.

Maybe that's why West stopped at 21 points and 16 shots Monday night. Matta has no ego beyond wanting to win. Neither does West.

"How much could you have scored tonight, if you wanted?" I asked.

"Aw, man, I don't know how to answer that," West said.

All for one, one for all

Rather than putting up numbers, West cleared the lane so Romain Sato could rebound. He set screens so Sato could shoot 3-pointers. And at the end, West coached his teammates to rebound, even when it didn't matter.

"Dave West will be a coach some day," Matta said.

The pair even chew gum the same, ferocious way, as if their jaws need to be bulked up.

And Ryan Caldwell got his two points, from the free-throw line.

"That," West decided, "was sweet."

E-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com

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