LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Jarrod West has only been on the University of Louisville campus for less than two weeks, but it's already feeling like home to him.
West is UofL coach Chris Mack's latest pickup from the NCAA transfer portal, having spent the first four years of his collegiate career at Marshall before deciding to play an extra season as a grad transfer and choosing UofL over Ohio State, Pittsburgh and others.
"This first week and a half have been great, I'm super excited to be here," West said during a media teleconference Thursday afternoon. "I'm blessed and grateful to be at UofL and I feel very welcome. I'm around a lot of good people – my teammates, coaches, support staff – and everybody has been very welcoming. It's been a fun two weeks, a lot of new things, and hopefully, it will be a fun summer."
And a fun 2021-22 season, he might have added. West, one of six newcomers on the Cardinals' roster, says he picked UofL because he sees it as a chance to contend for a national championship and prove he can thrive despite a serious upgrade in the level of competition.
West averaged 12.5 points for Marshall last year and shot 40 percent from 3-point range while leading Conference USA in assists at 6.0 per game (12th nationally), assist/turnover ratio (2.9, 11th in the country) and steals (2.5). He also contributed 3.5 rebounds per game. His 254 steals in 126 games are a school record.
However, Marshall (15-7) did not play a Power Six opponent last season or a team ranked in Ken Pomeroy's Top 70. The Thundering Herd finished third in C-USA with a 9-5 record, two games behind Western Kentucky and Old Dominion. Not that that bothers West much, if at all.
"I don't know how much of an adjustment this will be, I really can't say," he said. "I think the overall size, athleticism and strength at this level is probably something that will be different from Conference USA and something that I will have to adjust to, and I'm adjusting right now.
"There's going to be a learning curve, but at the end of the day, I'm very confident in my ability. I'm confident in what I can do. And I'm confident the coaches will do a really good job of putting me in a good position to succeed, learn and get better."
What the Clarksburg, W. Va. native believes he does best is excel in a leadership role and play intense defense, a trait that should endear him to Mack, who emphasizes defense above all. West was a member of C-USA's All-Defensive team in 2021.
"Defense is really kind of where I've made my mark so far," West said. "It's something I take very seriously and take a lot of pride in. Growing up, I was always one of the smaller guys on the court and that is still the case today. I wanted to be a Division I basketball player and it's hard to be a 5-11 guard and play at Division I if you can't defend at a high level.
"That means creating havoc, forcing turnovers, changing the pace and tempo of the game. I want to win, man, and that's all a part of winning and trying to impact the game in as many ways as possible as much as I can in a positive way."
With David Johnson and Carlik Jones leaving to turn pro, the 5-foot-11 West will likely compete with junior college transfer El Ellis for the starting point guard spot, but when West committed to Louisville in late March, Johnson and Jones hadn't yet decided whether they would return or not. If they had, West may have been no better than the third or fourth guard on the team when it came to playing time. Still, he insists he didn't consider it a risky move.
"I wouldn't call it a gamble," he said. "Coach Mack was very upfront and honest about what he thought was going to happen, how he felt things were going to play out and also where he thought I'd fit with the team. That's something that went a long way with me and made me comfortable. I trusted them and that was a big reason why I made my decision to come here."
Another major factor was his desire to experience playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career and in one of the best leagues in the nation, the ACC.
"I want to compete at the highest level and however you want to look at it, Louisville is a top-five, top 10 program in the country," West said. "I've watched them play in Final Fours and in national title games growing up. I want to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. That's the most important thing to me, I want to win big. I want to maintain that standard of Louisville basketball."
Apparently, though, West isn't aware that the standard he referred to has taken some significant hits in recent years. UofL has played in only two of the five NCAAs that have been staged in the last six years, the Cards' record in those two appearances is 1-2 and they have never won an ACC regular-season or tournament championship.
Furthermore, UofL's postseason eligibility in the near future is very much in question, pending the outcome of the school's appeal of the NCAA's ruling on rules violations involving the Brian Bowen situation.
Oh well, maybe West can be among the group that changes the current downward direction of the program.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.