It didn’t take long for former Bossier star Jalan West to make an impact at Northwestern State.
In his very first game, West scored 26 points in the Demons’ season-opening 118-77 victory over East Texas Baptist on Nov. 9.
Since then, he has been a key factor in the Demons’ success this season. NSU finished the regular season 21-8 overall and 15-3 in the Southland Conference after Saturday’s 84-73 victory over Sam Houston State.
NSU finished second to Stephen F. Austin in the conference. The Demons received a bye into the semifinals of the SLC tournament and will play Friday in Katy, Texas.
West had his first career-double-double against Sam Houston with 11 points and 12 assists.
“He’s made tremendous progress,” NSU coach Mike McConathy said after a midseason victory against Stephen F. Austin in Natchitoches. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself because he wants to be a solid player, and he is a good player. He’s going to be awful special and we’re just so thankful to have him here at Northwestern because he has so many different dimensions to his game.”
After leading Bossier to the Class 4A state championship in 2011, West had to sit out the 2011-12 season at Northwestern State because of NCAA Clearinghouse issues.
The NCAA Clearinghouse is an organization that certifies whether a prospective student-athlete meets NCAA academic requirements to play sports as a freshman at a Division I or Division II school.
Despite an effort by NSU to do so, the issues with the Clearinghouse couldn’t be resolved so West was redshirted.
That meant he had to watch the games from the stands. While West wanted to be on the court, he said sitting out last season helped him in some ways.
“I think it helped me because I got to see my teammates that returned, where they like to score from, the tendency they have on the floor and where I can fit in and help them out,” he said.
West has certainly made the most of his opportunity this season.
The 5-foot-10 guard finished the regular season fourth on the team in scoring at 10.6 points per game.
While scoring is certainly expected of West, he helps the Demons in other ways.
He leads the team in assists with 5.4 per game.
West is a product of coach Jeremiah Williams’ defensive-oriented Bossier system and that has stayed with him in college. He also leads the team in steals with 70.
West started early in the season, but now he’s part of the Demons’ “second wave” of five that comes in early in the game.
He has played the second-most minutes of any player on the team at 732.
The transition to college ball has been a learning experience.
“I think I’m becoming smarter, because earlier in the season I kept overrunning and getting charges called on me,” West said after the Demons defeated Stephen F. Austin in January. “I was still kind of playing high school ball because I didn’t get to play last year.
“And now I’m starting to be smarter and taking the pullup jumper. My teammates stay on me consistently about it. I think that’s helped.”
West said the pace of the the college game and “picking up full-court defense” has been something he’s had to adjust to.
“Coach Mike makes us pick up full court. and just run the whole time,” he said. “I think staying in shape was a key to me not playing last year and then coming on and playing this year.”
Like any freshman, West has areas in which he can improve. But McConathy said there isn’t a whole lot he needs to do.
“I just think the feel for the game and do all the little things,” McConathy said when asked what West needs to work on.