Jamal West, 2020, St. Frances Academy

by Derek Toney

Jamal West started playing basketball in eighth grade, He’s proven to be a fast study.

West, VSN’s No. 2 Boys Basketball Forward of the Decade, was a force for two of Baltimore’s basketball powerhouses – Dunbar and St. Frances Academy.

“I haven’t really been playing as long as others, but my father used to always tell me, ‘I don’t think that you would have wanted it as bad as you would have wanted [now] it if you started at a younger age,’” said West.

West started as sophomore for Dunbar in 2017-18, averaging 14.1 points and 11.7 rebounds. He was dominant on the glass in the Class 1A state final four with 33 rebounds as the Poets won their record 16th state championship.

“Whenever the ball goes up on both ends I just go for the rebound no matter what,” said West, who earned second-team All-Met honors.

West, 6-foot-5, wanted to advance his game. So he took his talents from Orleans Street to St. Frances, roughly a mile away on East Chase Street. There he teamed up with the area’s top playmaker in Adrian “Ace” Baldwin.

“When Jamal and his dad were meeting with Coach Nick, his dad took me to the side and said ‘I need you to get Jamal right,’” said Baldwin, “and I told him ‘I got him — just bring him here and it will be all good.’”

West averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists in his junior season as St. Frances won the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League championships. A first-team All-BCL selection, West averaged 25.5 points and 10 rebounds in the MIAA A and BCL Tournament finals, and posted a career-best 41 points in the MIAA A playoff opener.

“He’s probably the best first-year transfer I’ve ever had here,” said Panthers coach Nick Myles. “He was a perfect fit for what we needed and I think he expanded his game and did a lot more than people thought.”

West was surprised.

“I thought it wasn’t going to be that good of a season for me because I was just coming in and everybody needed to get used to me,” he said. “But we just started flowing as a family and I love it.”

Jamal West had a solid freshman campaign this season for the University of South Alabama, averaging 5.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. West led St. Frances Academy to two Baltimore Catholic League championship after winning a state title at Dunbar.

Already an tenacious rebounder, West, who was selected first-team All-Metro, became more explosive around the basket.

“He would figure out way to beat you,” said National Recruiting Report’s Tom Strickler, who has evaluated Baltimore area players the last 30 years.“He’s a junkyard dog.”

As a senior, West averaged 16 points and 8.7 rebounds as the Panthers claimed a third consecutive Baltimore Catholic League Tournament crown. He was named BCL Player of the Year, joining Daquan Bracey, Devin Gray, Mark Karcher and Sean Mosley as Panthers to win the honor.

“I couldn’t had done it without my team and coaches, they definitely pushed me,” said West. “They helped me become a better leader.”

West added BCL All-Tourney honors as St. Frances (38-4) finished No. 1 in the final VSN Top 20 and was ranked 17th nationally by ESPN and MaxPreps. He signed with the University of South Alabama.

West was a key contributor for Jaguars as a freshman, leading in rebounds (6.3 per game) along with 5.5 points in 27 games (started 17). South Alabama’s season ended Saturday in the Sun Belt Conference quarterfinals.

Panthers coach Nick Myles said West is the best frontcourt player he’s coached.

“He’s a fearless competitor…he has that will to win,” said Myles. “It’s not about individual awards for him, just championships.”

No. 3 Boys Basketball Forward: Demetrius Mims, 2018, Poly

No. 4 Boys Basketball Forward: LaQuill Hardnett, 2018, Perry Hall