Friday, January 31, 2003

For West, bad blood lingers in Richmond

Forward says his focus is on the game

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Harriett West doesn't need to hear fans shout obscenities and make fun of her son, Xavier All-American David West. So she is not going to Saturday's game at Richmond, where last season she says her family endured an entire game's worth of verbal abuse from Richmond fans.

"That's why I'm not going," she said. "I don't like the name-calling. It goes too far."

West's older brother, Dwayne, said fans insulted his mother and questioned David's toughness.

"And it went on the whole game," Dwayne said. "I just wanted to turn around and say, `Hey, that's my brother out there.'"

David can't get caught up in everything that fans do, but the forward did say Richmond's Robins Center is a tough place to play. Last season, Xavier overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat Richmond 67-64. Shortly after the game, a scuffle broke out among players and team personnel from both sides. The A-10 investigated the incident but issued no suspensions, and there have been no problems between the teams in two meetings since.

"It seemed like maybe the crowd helped increase the tension after the game," said Dwayne, who will be back again with other family members, including his father, as well as members from his church.

"I wouldn't say they're hostile," Dwayne added. "More like nasty. I was shocked at what they were saying about my family and my mother and David."

Eventually, Dwayne said, he had to do something.

"I just turned around and said, `You wish you had (David) on your team.'"

David said the fans didn't get to him, but he did make an "X" with his arms toward the Richmond crowd as he left the court. He is trying to stay out of any controversy that might happen this season.

"My family will be right there," West said. "And my brother will be there. He kind of cut that stuff off at the end when he was down there last year."

Players and coaches are used to hecklers in the stands and rarely notice during the game, which might be why Xavier coach Thad Matta said the atmosphere was not very hostile.

"Last year wasn't too bad," Matta said. "Until the end - it got crazy. But that was all avoidable."

Richmond (12-6, 6-1 A-10) defeated Xavier 67-59 for the first time in four meetings Jan.7 at Cintas Center, Xavier's only home loss of the season. David West was held to 10 points and received a technical foul late in the game as Richmond overcame a 12-point deficit for the win.

West said he can't worry about settling old scores Saturday because Xavier (14-4, 5-1) is fighting for first place in the A-10 West. Dayton leads the division with a 6-0 conference record and plays at LaSalle Saturday.

"It's an important game, because it's our division and we're trying to win the West," West said. "They're the only game we have. It's very important for us to go down there and make a statement, especially on the road. It's a game, from our end, where we're going in as an underdog and we have to even the series up on the year."


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