‘Natural leader’ L.J. Westbrook hopes to lead future team to championship

Feature photo courtesy of Jeromy Vauble.

For L.J. Westbrook, a 6-foot-4-inch point guard from Salem, Oregon, basketball is in his blood. He grew up going to the gym with his dad, a former professional basketball player in Chile, and has played since age three. His dad even coached his team until ninth-grade.

In fact, Westbrook’s proudest moment isn’t winning a game, but rather “seeing my little brother and my little sister grow up to love the game,” Westbrook said. “I think they love to play basketball because they grew up watching me, how I grew up watching my dad and I’m pretty proud…to pass that onto them.”

Just like he’s an example for his younger siblings, he’s an example for his teammates, as well.

“He’s a natural leader,” teammate Warren Dix said.

L.J. Westbrook goes around his defender in a game for Northeast Nebraska Community College. Westbrook plans to transfer to a Division I basketball team next year. Photo courtesy of Jeromy Vauble.

L.J. Westbrook’s dad, James Westbrook, has seen his son grow substantially in the last year, and said he believes having played basketballs at three different prep schools in addition to Northeast Nebraska Community College and Casper College in Wyoming as made him “a tough kid.”

“He’s just been doing it by himself and it’s a testament to him and his hard work that…he’s still playing, he’s still hanging in there and getting better by the day, by the minute,” James Westbrook said.

L.J. Westbrook has received offers from Eastern Kentucky, Western Carolina, Southern University, Portland State University and Jacksonville State University, as well as interest from many other D-1 schools.

“I like the Pac-12 schools just because they’re close to home,” L.J. Westbrook said. “The Pac-12 has a great winning tradition. They’ve got great school spirit.”

James Westbrook said he has no doubt his son will be able to transfer to a D-1 school, as he’s continually improving in his game and is doing very well academically.

“The academic piece is the one thing I’ve really been shooting for him to do,” his father said. “I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll go to the next level and he’ll do well.”

“I think [L.J. is] going to fit in at a major school really well,” Dix said. “[He’s a] really explosive scorer, he can score from anywhere–perimeter, paint.”

James Westbrook noted that the NBA isn’t necessarily the only career path he could envision for his son.

“He’s been well-coached so if he’s not a professional athlete, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a coach because he really, really knows the game,” he said.

But he’s also focused on his future, keeping his eyes on the prize.

“After I transfer to a Division I (school) next year, I want to help them make the NCAA tournament and potentially win a championship,” L.J. Westbrook said.

James Westbrook said he remembers the day his son made his first layup. He had teased his son about not being able to make layups until one day, without warning, he suddenly made it.

“He was just going up for a layup and decided to try it, and he did it and the look on his face was just priceless,” James Westbrook explained. “I was amazed … because he hadn’t been practicing or anything. He dunks it, and he comes down and he stops and … he looked like a deer in the headlights.”