A WVU graduate and former basketball star, West is quite simply one of the most successful and respected figures in the history of the game.
As a Mountaineer, West was a two-time All-American with a career 24.8 scoring average who led WVU to the 1959 national championship game against California. Following his senior year, “Mr. Clutch” became the Los Angeles Lakers’ first round pick and went on to have a storied NBA career. He also served as co-captain of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in Rome in 1960.
Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, West also starred as a front office executive. As a player, executive or special consultant, West’s accomplishments include nine NBA Championships, two NBA Executive of the Year awards, 14 NBA All-Star appearances, 10 First Team All-NBA selections and election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s now a consultant with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Don Nehlen became a College Football Hall of Fame member by turning West Virginia University’s program into a national championship contender. In 1988, the Mountaineers won all 11 regular season games, reached No. 3 in the national polls, and faced Notre Dame in the de facto national championship game in the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. Nehlen developed another team that won all 11 regular season games in 1993 before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
Nehlen finished with a 149-93-4 overall record at WVU, easily the most victories in school history. He was named the Walter Camp, Bobby Dodd and AFCA coach of the year in 1988, and was named the Kodak coach of the year in 1993. Thirteen of his teams went to bowl games and he coached 15 first team All-Americans, 82 all-conference players, six first team Academic All-Americans and 80 players who went on to play professional football.
Known nationally for his sports talk show “The Pat McAfee Show,” McAfee started his career as a kicker for WVU. Hailing from a suburb of Pittsburgh, Mountaineer coaches offered McAfee a scholarship after he barely missed a 70-yard field goal attempt in a camp. He went on to both kick and punt at WVU, hitting 73.4 percent of his field goal attempts and averaging 43.7 yards a punt. He started the Senior Bowl as the South’s kicker.
His success in Morgantown led McAfee to a stellar punting career in the NFL. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts and subsequently made the 2009 All-Rookie Team and two Pro Bowls. McAfee surprised many by retiring from the NFL, but then made a huge splash in the world of media, from calling pro and college football games to producing podcasts to calling and participating in professional wrestling.
One of the most explosive athletes in college football during his playing career, White posted a 35-8 record as the starting quarterback for WVU (sixth all-time in the NCAA record books for quarterback victories at the time) and became the first quarterback to have started and won four bowl games. He was named MVP of a bowl game three times (Gator, Fiesta and Meineke Car Care) and led WVU to an upset victory over the No. 9-ranked SEC champion Georgia in the 2006 BCS Nokia Sugar Bowl and a stunning 20-point upset over No. 4-ranked Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the 2008 BCS Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Named Big East Offensive Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007 and a first-team All-Big East honoree three times (2006-08), White finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2007 and seventh in 2008. Since then, White has been coaching. He is currently at Campbell University as the pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He’s also coached at Alabama State, South Florida, Alcorn State and worked with the San Diego Chargers during NFL Preseason Camp.
Da’Sean Butler, now a member of the Atlanta Hawks’ College Park Skyhawks coaching staff, is one of the best players to ever put on a WVU basketball uniform.
In 2010, he helped the Mountaineers win the school’s first Big East title and advance to the NCAA Final Four. He is third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 2,095 points behind only Jerry West (2,309) and “Hot Rod” Hundley (2,180). The 107 wins while he was in Morgantown makes him the winningest player in school history.
Butler was drafted 42nd by the NBA’s Miami Heat after tearing his ACL in the Final Four, but went on to play nine years overseas before starting his coaching career at Wheeling University.
Ginny Thrasher was the pride of WVU – and the United States – as the 2016 Olympic Champion in Women’s 10m Air Rifle Shooting. She accomplished this incredible feat right before her sophomore year of college as a Biomedical Engineering major at WVU. In college, she was a two-time NCAA Team Champion, a two-time NCAA Individual Champion, and a 12-time All-American.
In 2019, Thrasher graduated from WVU Summa Cum Laude as a Rhodes Scholar finalist. She then moved to Colorado Springs where she now lives and trains as a professional athlete striving to represent her country on the highest international stages.
A 1982 consensus All-American football player, Darryl Talley was a feared defender who had his No. 90 retired by WVU in October of 2021 and was the sixth Mountaineer player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
In the NFL, Talley was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro selection for the Buffalo Bills, which inducted him into their Wall of Fame. He played 12 of his 14 NFL seasons (1983-94) as the Bills’ starting outside linebacker and never missed a game, finishing as the Bills’ all-time leading tackler with 1,137. He played in four Super Bowls for the team.
Jaida Lawrence Hart
Jaida Hart (Lawrence) was a four-year letter-winning gymnast for WVU who made Mountaineer Nation proud as a 2016 Arthur Ashe Junior Sports award semifinalist.
Now a speech language pathologist who resides in Connecticut, Hart (Lawrence) racked up many awards while in Morgantown. Aside from being an Ashe award semifinalist, she was the 2015 Big 12 Scholar Athlete of the Year; a member of the conference Academic first team from 2014-2016; a 2013 member of the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team; and a NACGC/W Scholastic All-America selection 2013-2015. She made WVU’s President’s and Dean’s list from 2012 through 2016.
Gansey was a spark for the WVU men’s basketball team, leading the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight as a junior and the Sweet 16 as a senior. Yet his success didn’t end there. After playing professionally, Gansey entered NBA administration and has climbed to become the General Manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At WVU, Gansey was named a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Award, the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy and won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2005 World University Games.
As an NBA executive, he was General Manager for the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers’ NBA G League team, where he earned the 2016-17 NBA G League Executive of the Year award before moving up. Gansey played professionally overseas for three seasons and in the NBA G League for two.
Gyorko is one of the most – if not the most – successful former WVU baseball players to ever play Major League Baseball. As a Mountaineer, Gyorko garnered 10 All-America baseball honors during his outstanding career from 2008-10. His name remains written all over the WVU record books.
In the 2010 MLB draft, Gyorko was selected in the second round by the San Diego Padres and became the team’s Opening Day second baseman in 2013. In that same year, he finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, leading all qualifying rookies in home runs (23). Gyorko, an infielder, went on to play in the majors for eight years with the Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. He’s now the manager of the West Virginia Black Bears of the MLB Draft League.