Jerry West looks back on career

MORGANTOWN – The legendary Jerry West put up unbelievably fantastic numbers as the greatest basketball superstar in West Virginia men’s basketball history.

The graceful 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard from Chelyan, remains the No. 1 scorer and No. 1 rebounder with respective averages of 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game.

Making these fancy figures all the more remarkable is the fact that he was able to compete just three years on the varsity whereas most Mountaineer cagers had a full four-year varsity career.

West, who is 75 and still active administratively in professional basketball, owns an incomparable set of WVU statistics and school records for his college career.

For 93 games, he scored 2,309 points and pulled down 1,240 rebounds. He made 815 field goals in 1,660 attempts (.508 percent) and 623 free throws in 851 attempts (.732 percent).

West, admittedly shy and not around many people in his tiny town at East Bank High School, developed quickly into a magnificent young man and leader at WVU.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, West declined to answer when asked if he’s surprised his all-time points and rebounds records still stand after 53 years.

“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” he said simply. “I never have been interested in stuff like that. I never did.

“It was just being a part of West Virginia basketball at a special time, and having a chance to play on a really great team. People were really great. They provided state-wide support for our teams.”

West called it a growing up process for him. He noted that Coach Fred Schaus and full-time assistant George King, both of whom played in the NBA, tried to be helpful to him.

“But also the people I played with were unbelievably helpful in the success I had personally,” he continued.

“But it became evident to me as an athlete that I was growing up, that I was becoming a heck of a player and getting better every year.

“It was a very important time up there. I think you’ll see that at other schools. There are a few players that are special at the time.”

West readily admitted that “I was very athletic (at WVU) and the way we played I think was conducive for all of us to have a very athletic team for that time.

“The way we played-we weren’t always the biggest team-but it allowed us to succeed. A lot of things in basketball are based on anticipation of certain people. Also put into terms of environment of what we’re doing as a team for things to happen.”

West, who wore No. 44 (now retired), and his teammates posted consecutive records of 26-2, 29-5, and 26-5. They were No. 1 in the Southern Conference twice and No. 2 once.

The Mountaineers came within one point of winning the national championship against California in the 1959 NCA Tournament, bowing by 71-70 at Louisville, Ky.

Since West left after the 1959-60 season, no one has come closer than 450 points and 170 rebounds to his respective all-time career school records. He also still holds a total of 17 records.

He earned more All-America first team honors than any other Mountaineer in school history. He played 14 years in the NBA.

West is in the Pro Basketball, West Virginia Sports Writers, and WVU Sports Halls of Fame, among others.