Former Grambling hoops great Hershell West dies at 82

(Photo courtesy of Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame)

By T. Scott Boatright

Former Grambling College (now known as Grambling State University) basketball great Hershell West passed away Monday, Jan. 30 in his hometown of Rayville, La., following a short illness.


West, who played basketball at Eula D. Britton High School in his hometown of Rayville and won the Louisiana State AA Championship in 1959 before becoming a standout for Grambling, where his brother Ezell also played under Tigers head coach Fredrick C. Hobdy.  


At GSU, West played for four seasons, helping lead the Tigers to a Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship in 1961. 


He was Grambling’s leading scorer in that national championship 95-75 win over Georgetown College of Kentucky, pouring in 27 points for the Tigers.


West was also a two-time first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) selection in 1962 and 1963.


In 1962, he and six other Tigers players participated in a goodwill tour of Latin America.


West was selected as the 15th overall selection in the 1963 National Basketball Association by the Syracuse Nationals but he never played in the National Basketball Association (NBA). 


He went on to become basketball coach at Richwood High School in Monroe, Louisiana, where he served as a mentor to future Grambling standout Larry Wright, who went on to become a first-round draft pick for the Washington Bullets, helping that team win an NBA championship in 1977 


“He touched my life as much as anyone ever did,” said Wright, who remained a close friend of his former coach until West’s final days. “He was simply somebody that cared about everyone and especially his players and their families. He was a man of few words. He did the majority of his speaking with his actions and the way he treated people.


“So many people have called saying they heard the news and just wanted to talk about him – people like former Grambling football greats Doug Williams and James “Shack” Harris. It’s a sad day for Grambling. We’ve lost a great Tiger.” 


West was an inaugural member of the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.


Funeral arrangements are incomplete under the direction of Tennant Funeral Home in Rayville.