MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Basketball runs in Lamont West’s veins but that doesn’t mean the road to playing collegiate basketball was an easy one.
West’s mother, Tonya Kirk, was a four-year starter for Purdue from 1993-96. She even helped the Boilermakers make it to the Final Four her sophomore year.
West didn’t start playing the same sport his mother loved until middle school and it seemed like talent skipped a generation.
“I used to suck, to be honest. I used to suck real bad,” he said. “Like, I wasn’t good at all. If you all would’ve seen me back then, you all would’ve never thought that I would be in this position I’m in right now.”
In fact, James “Beetle” Bolden and West use to play against one another in sixth grade. Bolden was a budding star and West was inexperienced and not as talented.
“I knew him when he wasn’t good at basketball,” Bolden said.
West lacked the work ethic, and Kirk wasn’t about to push her son into something that his heart wasn’t in. It wasn’t until the 6-foot-8 freshman moved to Georgia that he fell in love with the game.
It was at one of the nation’s top prep school, Miller Grove that West started realizing he had potential. That was when West started having fun and enjoying the game.
That was when Kirk began to push her son to become the star he could be.
“It was more of a work ethic thing,” he said. “She said you just can’t go out there and think you’re going to drop 40 on somebody if you don’t train to drop 40.”
West’s mindset changed.
“I started believing in myself. I started going to the gym every day,” he said. “It was more a work ethic thing. I never liked basketball when I started. I was playing for no reason. Once people told me I had potential, I started liking it.”
Bolden was shocked when he heard the news that the two were going to be teammates at West Virginia.
“He wasn’t really good at basketball,” he said. “That’s why it was a shock for him to commit here.
“I didn’t’ know he went to a prep school. I looked up his highlights one day and said, ‘Wow! He really did get better.’”
Even though West has come a long way from the lanky kid who couldn’t make a layup and is now playing Division-I basketball, the forward has his work cut out for him as a Mountaineer. West Virginia’s full-court pressure defense isn’t easy.
But if West keeps working hard, the best could be yet to come.