It wasn’t even 6 a.m. yet, but West was ready and waiting.
His Laney basketball team was set to play Manchester for the Class AA state title in Macon, Ga., later in the day – a chance to get the glory for his team and all prior Laney squads.
But instead of getting overwhelmed by any pressure, West couldn’t stop smiling.
“This has to be a good game. This has to be a good game,” West remembers thinking. “I refuse to lose today.”
West scored the Wildcats’ first 11 points that game and finished with 20 as Laney won, 67-53, for its first state championship. For his performance in the final and throughout the season, West is The Augusta Chronicle’s Georgia boys basketball player of the year.
“That night, he came out in the championship game and set the tone. He let us know, ‘Coach, we’re all right,’ ” Wildcats coach Jerry Hunter said. “It was inspirational.”
West has overcome struggles to earn his accomplishments.
The tough times included moving around to different homes throughout his life, as he often lived in foster care or with family members.
But it seemed wherever West went, faith and basketball were with him, giving him the optimism and strength he needed.
Many helped him work through the rough stretches, and they make up a seemingly unending list of people West is afraid he can’t properly thank enough.
“I’ve had a lot of struggles, and I know I’ve come a long way,” West said. “I know I’m going to have some struggles here and there. But I know as long as I have faith and belief in God, and I listen and learn from the mistakes and try to rise above the problems that I have and obstacles that come my way, then I know there’s nothing I can’t do.”
Though life hasn’t always been easy – for West, his mother or others – he’s learned to forgive and grow.
He also tries to shelter his 9-year-old sister, Jakeria, from some harsh possibilities of life.
When he was growing up, West looked up to his grandad.
Though that role model is gone, West often still asks himself what his grandfather would do, how a man he saw as invincible would handle a situation.
Now West is the one getting looked at by impressionable eyes.
When West comes home, his sister hears his dribbling and goes running out from behind the screen door to meet him.
In the same way his grandad gave him hope, he knows he can take that kind of role with his sister or cousins.
“They’ll want to be like me,” West said. “Don’t be like me. Be better than me.”
So when West and the Wildcats brought home a title to Augusta, and when he hopefully graduates this year, West wants this all to serve as proof to his sister what good there is in the world.
“I want to show her you can be anything you want to be,” he said. “You can do anything you want to do. As long as you put in your mind that’s what you want to, this is what you want to be, this is the life I want to live, nobody can stop you. If you get that diploma, nobody can take that away from you.”