MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The newest player on West Virginia's basketball team is also one of its most veteran players.
Jonnie West returned to the Mountaineers two weeks ago, five months after revealing at the 2009-10 team's end-of-the-year banquet that he planned to skip his final year of eligibility to pursue a master's degree.
While West left the team, the fifth-year senior - his legendary father, Jerry, is WVU's all-time leading scorer - never was really gone. He lives with teammate Cam Thoroughman and couldn't help but hang around Joe Mazzulla, another fifth-year player, senior John Flowers and Thoroughman.
When he wasn't with them or working on his business administration studies, West was in the gym and watching his former team practice.
From time to time, the Mountaineers would goof on West and make light of his retirement and his inability to pull himself away from the team. It didn't take long for the active Mountaineers to begin calling him "Brett" - as in notorious flip-flopper Brett Favre.
Silently, though, everyone was thinking the same thing.
Maybe he'd come back.
"I thought about it because I was always around at the beginning of the season, but at that point, it was really just a joke," he said. "I was at practice and guys were joking with me and I'd say something like, 'If someone goes down, give me a call.' "
West really wasn't joking.
One day, with senior Casey Mitchell suspended and freshman Noah Cottrill not practicing, with freshman forward Darrious Curry medically disqualified and freshman center David Nyarsuk playing at Mountain State University, the Mountaineers were left with nine scholarship players.
It was hardly the conditions Coach Bob Huggins wanted to develop a team that last season reached the Final Four for the first time in 51 years.
Mitchell, who returned from his suspension two weeks ago, and Cottrill, who last Friday was suspended indefinitely, are guards.
So, too, is West, and that was obvious to no one more than Huggins. There arrived a point where Huggins could no longer contain his curiosity and asked West about returning.
"Coach talked to me one day and we actually talked for a while," West said. "He pretty much said, 'We're going to need you.'"