West is best: Senior brings leadership to GVSU basketball team

<p>GVL/ Leah Kerr</p>

GVL/ Leah Kerr

Kellen Voss

Every basketball team is only as good as their captain, as a person who can focus the team, lead by example and bond with fellow teammates is helpful to have on any basketball team, especially the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team.

Senior Zach West is that leader for the Lakers. Sharing the captain’s role with junior Hunter Hale, West has learned to connect with his teammates as a vocal leader, which is something he never expected to do when he came onto campus as a high school senior.

“Coming in as an 18-year-old kid and now being 22, the coaches and older players have taught me a lot, not only about basketball,” West said. 

“I’ve learned that it’s about the hard work it takes to be a student athlete and be successful. I’ve seen myself grow from being a shy kid to being more vocal and outgoing as a leader, so for the coaches to put their faith in me in that role is huge.”

Originally from Oswego, Ill., West had never even heard of Grand Valley State until his first visit four years ago, but when he saw the campus, it was quite literally love at first sight.

“When I was first getting recruited, I had no idea where GV was when I came on my first visit, and when I saw all the new buildings, I fell in love,” West said. “All the sports programs had a long history of being good, always competing for a top spot. That drew me in, and I’ve loved getting a chance to know the guys in the program and what it stands for.”

West has been a contributor since his freshmen year, starting 23 of 29 games as a true freshmen. A former member of the GLIAC All-Academic team, West has seen his role ebb and flow over the years, whereas some games he scores 20, including earlier this year against Tiffin, and some games he sees the floor well, makes hustle plays and leads by example.

In his senior season, West has proven to be a jack of all trades, averaging 5.0 points per game, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists, shooting a consistent 45.9 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three, starting in 13 games this season. Being that he’s not outstanding at just one thing, West sees himself as a glue guy, which is crucial to have with this talented roster.

“I feel like I do a little bit of everything,” West said. “I’m not a prominent scorer or a leading rebounder, but I do chip in in every little part of the game, which lets coaches trust me at the end of games, and that confidence they’ve given me has evolved my game into what it is today.”

West’s contributions to this team are also evident off the floor, as he finds building one-on-one relationships with each of his teammates to be the best way to lead the Lakers.

“I like to connect with guys individually, because I feel like I can get down to the nitty-gritty things with them,” West said. “People may not be comfortable getting coached in a big setting, so a lot of the one-on-one talks are the best way for me, because I feel like I can connect to a lot of different people and their different personalities.”

A finance major who is looking to work in Grand Rapids next year, West couldn’t pinpoint one or two moments when asked about his favorite memories with the team, but will instead take away the relationships with his teammates that can last a lifetime.

“The guys have been amazing, we’re a fun, goofy group and there’s always laughs and smiles and giggles going on,” West said. “It can sometimes work against us in practice, but the relationships that I continue to build on and that I still have with older guys are what I will most fondly remember when looking back.”