Sunday, March 23, 2003

Bookends on XU's roster


Caldwell, West two peas in XU pod

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - "Ask him about his chest hair," David West said. What?

"He's like Austin Powers," said West.

Actually, what West said was, when it came to chest hair, Ryan Caldwell made Austin Powers look like a cue ball. Or something like that. It's plush shag carpeting in there. "Rhino wears two shirts," said West.

Caldwell calls West "The Black Mr. Clean" and is amazed that West - who Rhino says is cheap - pays a barber to have his head shaved. After UC's Jason Maxiell taunted West in print before the Crosstown Shootout, Caldwell was the first person to call. "Dave, he's gonna kick your (butt)," Caldwell decided.

That's OK. West was the first to call Caldwell "Rhino," and not because his first name is Ryan. At 6-5, 250, Caldwell moves the earth when he walks. West tells Rhino he should be playing football.

They're very good friends.

The national Player of the Year candidate, and the player who has played 30 minutes his entire college career. The player who is a first team All-American, and the player who isn't first team on his own team.

Human highlight film. Human victory cigar. Best of friends.

"He'll be one of my groomsmen when I get married," Caldwell says.

"I won't forget how important he has been to me and this team," West says.

They play cards and video games together. They go out to eat on the road together. They call each other by their middle names. You can bet nobody else calls West "Moorer" or Caldwell "Garrett."

They consult each other regularly. When West wanted advice on declaring for the NBA draft, he confided in Caldwell. "Do what makes you happy," Caldwell told him. "I'll support you whatever you do."

Ask Caldwell of his best memory of their time at Xavier, he says, "The best memory is yet to come, when we graduate together."

This is the way it's supposed to work. You go to school four years, you come out a better, wiser person for the people you've met and the experiences you've had. The friendships and the growing are as important as the grades.

Most places, the basketball team is an entity unto itself. The players are students to the extent their names are at the registrar's office. They're enrolled. Their college experience is defined by hotel rooms and three-hour practices.

Here's what Caldwell and West said when I asked them, "What will you take from your four years here?"

Caldwell: "The whole experience. I met friends for life. All the places I've seen. The coaches. I've been to three NCAA Tournaments."

West: "The experience. The opportunity to mature. The atmosphere, the friends you make."

They gave the same answer. In a few months, West will be a millionaire preparing for the NBA. Caldwell will be looking for work. They won't forget each other.

Garrett and Moorer had at least one more college practice to attend Saturday. "You're too weak," Caldwell might have said, while defending West with a forearm to the spine.

"You're a redneck," West might have answered, knowing Caldwell's love for country singers Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw.

The tall, gangly kid from North Carolina and the large, wide kid from McNicholas High School. Black guy, white guy. Regular-guy superstar and ego-free encourager. Best of friends. Sometimes, college works.

"Give it to me, Garrett," West will say today, right before Xavier plays Maryland. It's what he always says.

"Kick some (butt)," Garrett will answer, like always.

"I'll miss that," West said.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




NCAA TOURNAMENT
Full coverage at Cincinnati.com

MEN'S TOURNAMENT
Maryland 77, Xavier 64
Underdog Xavier has upset in mind
Daugherty: Bookends on XU's roster
Coaches experts on Terps
Majerus has the big blues
UK, Utah still have ties to '98
Apology ahead for UC's Machock
Gators-Spartans: Things could get rough
Cowboys will test Orangemen
Butler now faces Louisville's press
IU ready to mount a charge
After spurning Spartans' offer, Gators' Roberson must face them

MEN'S TOURNAMENT - SATURDAY'S GAMES
East: OU's Bookout covers for ailing Price
Midwest: Little-known Novak burns Mizzou
South: UConn turns to top guns
West: Hot-shooting Irish burn Illini
NCAA Tournament at a glance
NCAA Tourney notebook
NCAAs: The Skinny
NIT: Providence tops College of Charleston

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
New coach rebuilds XU from guards up
UC faces an uphill battle at home
Living legend roams Texas sidelines
Wright happy to be home
Women's tournament at a glance
Lady Vols have no problems at home

REDS / BASEBALL
Reds fans get first look
Graves lets go of bothersome pitch
Blue Jays 4, Reds 1
Harnisch is pleased with performance
Reds Q&A
It's the same old Angels, champs or not
Devil Rays release Vaughn

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals look to turn weakness into strength
Bengals Q&A
Rams bolster line with trade for Saints' Turley

PREP SPORTS
D-I state title: Moeller 73, Brookhaven 65
D-III state title: Reading 50, Sugarcreek Garaway 44
LeBron leads Ohio team to third state title
Ky: No. 1 Mason Co. 86, Lou. Ballard 65
Princeton's Davis joins elite crowd

GOLF
Tiger tames field, leads by five shots
Sorenstam closes in on 1st win of season

HOCKEY
Rangers keep slim hopes alive
Mighty Ducks beat Norfolk in overtime

NBA
Hawks stop O'Neal's shot at victory for Pacers
Hill won't give up despite surgeries

HORSE RACING
New York Hero tames Lion
Rider Cooksey injured in Turfway Park spill

TRISTATE SPOTLITE
Merchant's Harvard finale is memorable
Enquirer Page Two power rankings
Swarm gear up for af2 season
Following in footsteps of defunct Rockers

PLAN YOUR DAY
Sunday's sports on TV, radio

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