By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
Wally West began teaching at the Morgan County Crossroads School last year, but, before then, West has been several things: an NBA draft pick, a college basketball coach, the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia, a husband, and a father.
West was born on Oct. 21, 1958 in Chicago, Ill., but didn’t begin playing basketball, a sport that has largely guided the direction of his life, until he was a sophomore at Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago.
“I was tall,” West said about why he was recruited into the basketball program at the school.
By his junior year, however, West decided that he would give the sport all that he had.
His hard work paid off, and West earned a scholarship to Pratt Community College in Pratt, Kan.
Being born and raised in Chicago, West described moving to the middle of Kansas as a “total shock.”
“That was the start of me realizing that I have the ability to adapt,” said West. “That was different.”
After only one year at Pratt, West transferred to Boston University, where he was able to play for Coach Rick Pitino during his three years in Boston.
“He opened the doors,” said West about Pitino’s effect on his life. “He opened my eyes to so many different things.”
West, who stands six-foot-nine, played center during his years at Boston University and was the Utah Jazz’ third pick during the 1980 NBA draft.
Despite trying out for the team during two consecutive years, West was not chosen by the Jazz, so he found himself facing some big decisions.
“That was tough back then,” began West. “There are so many good players out there; you are just one in an ant hill. I knew then that I wasn’t just going to chase the dream, even though I wanted to play basketball.”
Deciding to try his hand at a professional career overseas, West found success, playing for 10 years playing in Spain, France and Switzerland.
“There are so many great memories,” said West of his time in Europe. “My oldest daughter was born in Spain, and my oldest son in France. I got to live in Paris. I got to live in Geneva.”
In 1990, however, West decided that it was time for him to make a change. He retired from professional basketball and began a college coaching career as an assistant coach at LaGrange College.
West spent a total of 10 years coaching college basketball at schools such as Brewton Parker College and Morris Brown College in Atlanta.
Coming up at another junction in his life, West found that he would have to continue to be away from his family if he was going to make a career as a coach work, and he decided that sacrificing family time was not something he was willing to do.
“I promised my wife that I was not going to do that to her,” said West about staying on the road with teams. “As much as I loved it, I was going to be home with my kids.”
West was offered the position of Executive Director for the Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia in 2000, and he held the position until 2009.
During his years as Executive Director, West was able to build the organization up to the point where it was winning national awards, including the Best Education and Career Development and Best Overall Program awards in 2005.
When West’s tenure with the Boys & Girls Club ended, West decided that what he really wanted to do was teach children.
West returned to LaGrange College, where he earned his Master’s Degree in Education and took a job at Handley High School in Roanoke, Ala. before coming to Morgan County’s Crossroads.
West stated that his teaching method depends on his students being able to be themselves in the classroom.
“They know that they are safe in here, that they can be themselves around me,” said West.
“This is my world right here,” continued West, standing in his classroom at Crossroads. “I share my information with these kids. I keep my world organized. This is our learning laboratory.”
While looking back at the career changes in his life, West noted that he seems to make a dramatic change just about every decade.
“My life has been balled in packages of tens,” said West.
Through it all, however, has been his family. West was married to his wife, Valerie, on June 19, 1983, and they have four children: Sophie, Wesley, Pascale, and Nicholas.