MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Jarrod West’s name is etched in West Virginia basketball history thanks in large part to his buzzer-beater in the 1998 NCAA Tournament which sent the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16. He also has great affection for the kelly green and white of Marshall.
The TBT selection committee took full advantage of an intriguing matchup opportunity as Best Virginia will face Herd That in the opening round of July 5. West will once again be calling the shots from the sideline for the WVU alumni squad.
“Everybody likes a good storyline,” West said. “Once they announced we would be playing them, it made a lot of sense afterwards. We were just excited to be included in the 24-team field. Now we have to prepare and get ready to take one game at a time.”
The Notre Dame High School head coach will now be game-planning against many of the guys that have been teammates with his oldest son, Jarrod.
“When those guys wore the green and white and ‘Little Jarrod’ was right beside them, I was rooting as much as I could. I love a lot of those guys, Elmore, C.J. (Burks), Rondale (Watson), Ryan Taylor, Stevie Browning. I am totally indebted to how they treated ‘Little Jarrod’. They embraced him when he first got to Huntington.
“That love will never fade. I love them to death. But once that ball goes up, we are 1 of 24 teams trying to win a million dollars.”
The Herd That roster also contains many of the players that led Marshall to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. They were eliminated by West Virginia.
“I told our guys at practice, these guys can play. We have to execute and rebound the ball.”
West was the head coach for Best Virginia in their first TBT run last year when they advanced to the second round. He says this year’s roster is bolstered by added options in the backcourt.
“Our depth at the guard position is huge. Last year, I thought if (Juwan Staten) stayed healthy we had a chance. I thought Truck (Bryant) did a good job filling in but we were so light in the pants at the guard position.
“This year we bring in one of my all-time favorites in Tarik (Phillip). I love Tarik. He is a great kid, a defender and a bulldog. And you throw in Daxter (Miles Jr.) and we have four high-level guards.”
Last year, Best Virginia toured the mountain state to play exhibition games prior to the TBT. That luxury isn’t afforded to any team this year so a compressed practice schedule will be critical leading into the single-elimination tournament.
“We are trying to do in a two-week span what it normally takes three months to do to build chemistry. We don’t have that luxury. This is a one-and-done situation. Everybody is in the same situation so you can’t cry about it.”
West and assistant coach Dave Tallman are navigating potential scenarios to close out games with the Elam Ending. This is a unique setup where the game clock is shutoff with four minutes to play. Teams must then reach a ‘target score’ to win. This forces teams to remain aggressive to finish off a victory.
“I love the Elam Ending. I think it is a brilliant idea. In a lot of high school games, guys are used to running the clock out and just trying to hold on. With this, you have to continue to execute. When the Elam Ending starts, it is very important to have guys on the floor with high basketball IQs.
“We’ll have some plays we want to go to to get a bucket or get the ball to the right people. Those last eight, nine, ten points are very important in terms of execution. We’ll continue to focus on that.”
In all the scenarios that a coach can prepare for, West says thinking about how he will spend his share of the million dollar purse that goes to that winning team isn’t one of them.
“I am a low-maintenance type of guy. The money is the last thing on my mind. My wife might say something different. I am just all about the competition and being with the guys. That stuff takes care of itself.”