From the Bench Rewind: Jarrod West Looks Back at "The Shot" on 25th Anniversary of NCAA Tourney Win

By Jeff Toquinto on March 19, 2023 from Sports Blog via

EDITOR'S NOTE I: It was 25 years ago on Wednesday that Jarrod West made a shot that will forever keep his name etched in the minds of WVU faithful. Not only did it move WVU to the Sweet 16, but it beat Bob Huggins' Cincinnati team in the process. Ironically, the possibility exists that West's son, Jarrod, could face the Mountaineers almost 20 years later to the day if both teams win their first round NCAA tournament games Friday. Here's a look back at the Jarrod West's recollection of the moment from a blog that ran on the 20-year anniversary with a few modifications.
Generally, it's this time of the year when NCAA basketball fans are in heaven. And for West Virginia University men’s basketball fans, a feeling that was "Almost Heaven" is celebrating an anniversary since this year's team took a loss in the operning round against Maryland.
As some may know, Wednesday was a big date in history for WVU fans. In fact, the person that made this day special can be found right here in Harrison County, which is where one Jarrod West calls home. It was 25 years ago this week – March 15, 1998 in fact – that West delivered one of the greatest moments in WVU NCAA Tournament history.
This was back in the days of Gale Catlett, when NCAA tournament appearances were like graduating from college – it only happened every four or five years; or so it seemed. Even more intriguing is that the moment, known as “The Shot,” happened against current WVU Coach Bob Huggins and a very loaded Cincinnati team.
Rewinding back to that year, West said the team - a still relatively new member of the Big East - was focused heading into the tournament, believing they could play with anyone. And in the first round, West and his teammates ran into an old friend in Temple and knew if they won that game they had a matchup with Huggins who had his own ties to the Mountain State.
“We were all focused on the task at hand, but we knew all about Temple because the first two years we were in the Atlantic 10. We knew who a potential second round opponent was and we knew of Coach Huggins playing at WVU,” said West. “All it did was make things more interesting.”
For those thinking the Mountaineers weren’t focused as West cited, consider they put a 30-point beat down (82-52) on Jon Chaney’s Temple Owls to set up the showdown with Cincinnati. And the showdown proved to be just that as the Mountaineers actually took an early lead and held on to it for most of the game.
“I remember going into halftime thinking we should have been up more,” said West, the starting point guard. “We had a five- or six-point lead a lot of the time and just never seemed to be able to push it to double figures. It was always in that range, but maybe that’s because that wasn’t just an average team we were playing.”
West couldn’t be more correct. The Bearcats’ roster was loaded with Rueben Patterson, D’Juan Baker and this young freshman named Kenyon Martin. Because of that, the Mountaineers never could pull away from the second-seeded Cincinnati squad and late in the game it appeared West’s fears that the Mountaineers had left a little too much of the door open appeared validated.
Nursing a 72-71 lead with less than 15 seconds to play, Cincinnati ran a set of screens to free up Baker, who along with Patterson would finish the game with 25 points each, on the left side of the floor. Baker showed he had ice water in his veins and with 7.2 ticks on the clock, his 3-point shot had fallen through the net to give the Bearcats a 74-72 lead.
“It’s amazing what goes through your head when things happen. I had a quick flashback of games we had lost just like that. I thought of a UMass game and a Georgetown game where we just let games get away from us right at the end,” West said.
His thoughts ended quickly. West looked over thinking Catlett would opt for a timeout. That didn’t happen and the stage was set.
“I got the ball and we had plays for a situation like this so I knew there was going to be a high screen set for me once I got into the halfcourt,” said West. “Big B. (center Brian Lewin) set that screen up perfect on the right side. When I came off of him, he nailed his guy perfectly with that screen so I figured I’m going to get a clean look and a good chance to elevate.”
While West elevated, the look was anything but clean.
“Rueben Patterson must have seen the screen from the right wing because he exploded out as I went up with three or four steps,” said West. “My main objective was to get it over his hands. When that happened, the best I could tell was the ball was on line. Whether it was short or long, though, I didn’t have any idea.”
While it was a little long, that proved to be a good thing. The shot banked in and with less than a second to play, the Mountaineers found themselves up 75-74. And then, there was momentary chaos.
Several Mountaineer players stormed the floor thinking the game was over. West said he was trying to shake players off.
“I remember Jason D’Alesio running out and grabbing me and I was thinking there’s time left,” said West. “I guess they could have given him or some others a technical, but it didn’t happen and we ended up winning.”
When the game was over, one of the most touching moments occurred when teammate Damian Owens – the team leader – embraced West and they fell to the floor under a sea of blue and gold humanity.
“That was touching because Damian and I came in together as roommates. I remember him hugging me under 20 or 30 people,” West said. “In the midst of all of that, I can remember him telling me how proud he was of me because we had a lot of nights that were so tough that we spent together and he was always there for me. He started as a freshman and I wasn’t playing and he was the one who always kept me up. He always told me my time would come. I guess he was right.”
What ended up making the 25-foot bank shot even more impressive is what West said he learned later at an NBA pre-draft camp. It was at that event that West had a chance to talk with Patterson.
“He told me he got a piece of the ball. I didn’t know it at the time. He gave me a big hug and said he got it,” West said.
There was one other thing West didn’t know at the time. He had no idea how big the shot would become in Mountaineer history.
“I hit some game-winning shots before, but nothing of that magnitude. I knew it was the NCAA Tournament and that it was important, but at that time you’re just thinking you’ve got to advance to have another week of a college basketball career,” said West. “Back then, you just knew it was a good thing that happened. Years later, you really get a grasp on just how big it was.”
Today West is the head coach of the Notre Dame High School boys’ basketball team. He said a week doesn’t go by that he’s not talked to about the shot.
“Every four or five days someone talks about it. It does not get old, but it may get repetitive. That’s okay because one of the things I remember most is that the fans were so good to me and if that’s what they want to talk about, that’s a good thing,” West said. “To this day, I get rock star treatment at places throughout the state so if I have to hear that the rest of my life I’ve got no problem at all with it.”
West said one of the best parts was watching his boys – Jarrod and Jaidyn – get a handle on people approaching him about the shot as they grew up. Today, they fully understand it, but years ago it wasn’t the case.
“They brought some guys back to the Coliseum for a game with Pitt, I’m thinking about (17) years ago, and I had little Jarrod (playing overseas professionally today) with me. He wanted to know why they were putting the cameras on me and him,” said West. “I didn’t know how to explain so I took him up to where they have that display inside the Coliseum (of the shot) and I think he got it from that point forward.”
Of course, there have been some surprising moments along the way. Through all the good times that have followed since that shot, West recalls one other incident with a hearty laugh.
“It was during that same game with Pitt when they had us back and I was signing a lot of autographs. I was approached by this adult and they had their kid. He said to the kid, ‘This is my favorite player, Hines Ward.’ I just kind of froze and signed my name real quick,” West laughed. “I’ve been told I look like Hines Ward before, but this was the first time someone actually wanted me to sign an autograph. If that’s the worst that comes with this, I’ll take it.”
Editor's Note II: Top and bottom photos are from the Cincinnati game, while middle photos is a shot of Jarrod West during the regular season. All photos courtesy of WVU Sports Communications.

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