NATCHITOCHES – Dynamic point guard Jalan West, who has missed the last two seasons with knee surgeries, has received a seventh-year waiver from the NCAA and will play his senior season next winter for the Northwestern State basketball team.
Head coach Mike McConathy said Friday afternoon NSU received notice its waiver request has been granted to allow West to play his senior season. West, who graduated last May and has remained in school pursuing a psychology degree, and McConathy were ecstatic at the news.
“I’m thankful and grateful to have another opportunity to be back out there and be part of the team,” said West. “Now I can accomplish everything I promised myself we would accomplish when I came here: winning a conference championship, being a great teammate, being a team leader, and getting back to the NCAA Tournament again, and winning games there. I want to lead by example, be a role model to kids, to help people. Getting back in the game gives me those opportunities and it’s a great blessing.”
“Friday afternoons are really nice, but this one is really, really a good Friday afternoon,” said McConathy. “Our compliance office did a wonderful job and we’re so appreciative of them and all the people who helped provide the documentation for the NCAA to review, and for the ruling to allow him this opportunity.”
Dustin Eubanks, assistant athletics director and NSU’s NCAA compliance director, said he and assistant Demetrus Caldwell found three cases of seventh-year waivers in developing the basis for the successful appeal. NCAA rules allow players five years to play four seasons, and in some cases due to injury, the NCAA will a sixth-year waiver. West’s case was not unique, but unusual.
“They’ve happened before, but are just not common,” said Eubanks. “Jalan received the extension (last May) for his sixth year, which means the NCAA wanted him to get that fourth season of competition. The injury last summer kept him from getting that fourth season last winter, so they extended it another year.”
The Bossier High School product is NSU’s career assists leader (614) and 3-pointers king (212), is third in steals (219) and sixth all-time in scoring (1,592 points). He had seven NCAA top 10 career rankings entering last season.
West (5-11, 192) suffered a knee injury in the first game of the 2015-16 season. After surgery, he reinjured the same ligament in July 2016 and missed the 2016-17 season.
“It has been probably the toughest years of my life,” he said. “Having something that you love, something you do on a daily basis with the people you care about, taken away from you is pretty rough.
“But it’s a blessing in disguise to sit back and look at it from a different perspective. When you’re playing, you don’t notice what you have, and you take things for granted, until it’s taken away,” said West. “On the sideline you hear the coaches coach, and I was able to see my teammates’ best attributes so I can put them in a position to be successful. If we all buy in and come together as one, we can do some great things.
“I’ve experienced more of the entirety of the game. I thought it was more physical, coming in and putting in the work. Now I think it’s more mental, reflecting on all the things you go through and learn from them. I have plenty of work to do to get ready this season, plenty of things to improve,” he said.
Watching another great NSU player, 2017 senior Zeek Woodley (broken wrist), sit out most of his senior season and then return to play explosively at the end of the season raises McConathy’s optimism about West.
“Watching for the past two years, I think Jalan’s game has grown, if that can happen, because he’s seen things from the sideline. He knew that was going on, but to see it from the side made a big difference,” said McConathy. “We saw that this year with Zeek, when he came back for the last four games after having to watch for 15 games. He was really, really special when he came back.”
McConathy was giddy considering pairing the most prolific point guard in school history with an impressive signing class and returning veterans.
“We’ll have a lot of speed and that makes a lot of difference of the level of play in our conference. With the new signees we have, complemented by Jalan, with Devonte Hall and Ishmael Lane coming back leading the way among our returning players, we have a chance to be really, really special. I think we could look like we did early in my tenure when we were very strong defensively because we had great length, great speed, and could pressure in numerous ways.
As NSU compiled a 19-13 record in 2014-15 and finished fourth in the SLC standings, West led the nation with 7.7 assists per game in 2014-15 to pair with 20 points per game, 16th nationally. Then-sophomore Woodley was the nation’s second-leading scorer (22.2 points per game), and Woodley and West formed the nation’s highest scoring tandem (42.2 points per game).
West helped NSU to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012-2013 as the league’s freshman of the year after the Demons won the Southland Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed. NSU finished in the top four in the Southland Conference standings in each of the next two seasons led by the two-time mid-major All-American.
Without West on the floor, the Demons have missed the last two conference tournaments.
Before his injury, West was a consensus top 100 NBA Draft prospect as a senior (2015-16 class) in three different rankings and was rated as high as No. 50 by DraftExpress.com.
He already owns NSU’s career assist record with 614. He is NSU’s reigning 3-point shooter (212 made) and also on track to become the Demons’ all-time steals leader, with his 219 total 45 away from the mark.
West ranks in the top 20 among NCAA career leaders in assists per game (6.4), in total assists (614); in assist-turnover ratio (2.6); steals per game (2.28) and total steals (219). His 16.6 career scoring average is among the top 30.