A.J. West, one of the most enigmatic, entertaining, puzzling and productive players in Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball history, has left the program.
The 6-foot-9 senior left the team because of personal reasons, according to a university press release. West played in 61 games with 54 starts over the past three seasons and averaged 9.9 points and 9.0 rebounds.
West was one of just 15 players in Division I last year to average a double-double. He averaged 12.1 points and 11.0 rebounds and set a Mountain West record with 116 offensive rebounds in a season and 188 in a career in league games. He led the Mountain West in rebounding and was second with 11 double-doubles. He led the nation among Division I players with an average of 5.93 offensive rebounds a game.
This year, however, West saw his playing time diminish under first-year head coach Eric Musselman. He played under 25 minutes in his last five games and averaged just 23.7 minutes a game this year, the lowest in his Pack career. Musselman also started West just six times all year and just once in the last four games. A year ago West started 29-of-30 games and averaged 29.1 minutes a game. His average of 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds this year were his lowest since his first year at Nevada in 2013-14, when he averaged 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24.5 minutes a game in 21 games (19 starts).
West was also one of the few Pack players that Musselman criticized publicly this year. Musselman benched West at the start of the game for the first time this season against Portland State on Nov. 25, citing West’s lack of effort at practice in the days before the game. West responded that night by coming off the bench and scoring 16 points and pulling down eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Musselman, though, still criticized West’s effort on defense in that game.
“On his transition defense it looked like he had a piano on his back,” Musselman said after the Portland State game. “One time he came to the bench and said, ‘I’m tired.’ I said, ‘That’s fine. But how about next time you tell me before your man scores.'”
The Portland State game was the last time that West played as many as 25 minutes in a game this year. Musselman did start West two more times after the Portland State game and West struggled both times. He scored six points and had three rebounds in a 75-66 loss at Fullerton and did not score for the only time in his Pack career in 22 minutes in a 66-62 loss at Oregon State.
West averaged 12.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Wolf Pack’s seven victories this year. He averaged 3.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in the Pack’s three losses.
This season started out extremely well for West. He had a double-double in three of the Pack’s first four games with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Coastal Carolina, 11 points and 12 boards against Montana State and 11 points and 16 boards against Pacific. Those efforts, however, were the last double-doubles in West’s Pack career (19 double-doubles). West had 12 double-doubles in a span of 18 games last season from Dec. 22, 2014 through Feb. 28, 2015. The final game of that stretch, a 78-62 loss to Colorado State at Lawlor Events Center, saw West score 17 points and pull down 10 rebounds and also tie a Wolf Pack record by going to the free throw line 20 times, making 13. West, at one point last year, scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games. He had at least 10 points and seven rebounds in all of those 15 games.
West was also one of the premier shot blockers in Wolf Pack history. He had 145 blocks in his Pack career, leaving him third in school history behind just Dario Hunt (275) and Nick Fazekas (192) and ahead of Edgar Jones (142).
The absence of West now, it seems, puts added emphasis on 6-8 freshman Cameron Oliver and 6-7 sophomore Elijah Foster to protect the paint. Oliver is averaging 10.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 24.1 minutes a game this year while Foster is averaging 1.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in nine minutes a game. Kaileb Rodriguez, a 6-9 junior, also will likely see an increase in playing time. Rodriguez has played in seven games this year, averaging seven minutes, 1.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.4 blocks. Lucas Stivrins, the only other player on the roster over 6-6, has played in just three games this year, with two of them coming against Division II opponents. He’s played just one minute all season against a Division I (Montana State) team though last year he did play in 29 games with 11 starts and averaged 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds. Stivrins has 11 blocks in 464 career minutes.