Former ETSU basketball star Alvin West dies

Joe Avento • Aug 9, 2018 at 7:17 PM

Alvin West, a member of what is regarded as the best basketball recruiting class in East Tennessee State history, died suddenly Thursday morning, his former teammates said.

West was 49 and lived in Conyers, Georgia, with his wife Nicole. The cause of death was unknown.

“This is hard to take, a hard one to take,” said Major Geer, probably West’s closest friend on the ETSU teams of 1987-91.

West came from Havelock, North Carolina, to join Geer, Mister Jennings, Greg Dennis and Micheal Woods in ETSU’s 1987 recruiting class. They went on to greatness, winning the Southern Conference championship their last three years together.

West’s name was often mentioned along with Geer’s. The two came to Johnson City at the same time, both from North Carolina, and they were inseparable during their college careers. Even on the ETSU career scoring chart, there they are right next to each other. West is 28th with 1,115 points. Geer is 29th with 1,094.

“We had a lot of similarities,” Geer said. “We shared the same position. We were roommates. He was the best man in my wedding and we scored our 1,000th points on the same night. I don’t know how more similar you can get without being blood brothers.”

Jennings, the All-American point guard, helped spread the dreadful news by contacting as many former teammates as he could Thursday.

“Me and Alvin always had a cool relationship,” Jennings said, choking back tears. “He used to let me drive his car back in the day. We were all like brothers. It was a lot more than the championships.”

On the court, West was an accurate outside shooter who played with a chip on his shoulder.

“He was by far the most fierce competitor we had,” said Marty Story, who played three years with West. “He was always driven. He always went hard. He was a just a good dude.”

Story recalled a time when he and West were in slumps at the same time. As they fought their ways out of them together, they came up with a name for the process. It was the “West-side Story.”

“We laughed about that,” Story said. “He was a tremendous person, an outgoing person, one of the most well liked members of the team.”

Many of the former ETSU teammates, West included, spent time together at Loren Riddicks’ basketball camp recently. They said West seemed fine and there was no indication anything was wrong.

Story said he rode from the gym to the hotel with West and the two spent some time together in the hotel room talking about life in general.

“I was fortunate to spent that kind of quality time with my guy before something like this happened,” Story said. “I’m thankful for that. You try to figure out why these things happen, but I was at least blessed to have that quality time.”

Geer said his path crossed with West’s several times in recent weeks.

“I was able to see Alvin the last three weeks, almost every weekend because of our schedules,” Geer said. “It was probably the most I’ve seen him in 20 years. I almost feel like it was God’s way to give us time to say goodbye without even knowing.”

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