When Omari Westley was literally doing serious basketball work at Cleveland State (NCAA) from 2003-2005 he was most likely dreaming more of an NBA career and playing mind games with himself what he can continue to do with his game in the lab to even be a spec of a player like Lebron who had just come out of high school to do his magic with the Cavs, than of a career in Europe. Besides Westley only had a 10 minute walk from the Wolsten center to the Quicken Loan arena and he wasn´t far away from where the real action of the NBA was happening. So why even waste any time of making any thoughts of what it could be like playing professional basketball anywhere else except in the NBA. It is only typical that American basketball players are cocky and have a very healthy self confidence when it comes to their abilities, but sooner than later the real reality sets in and guys after a while are more than thankful of balling somewhere on the planet. I don´t know if Westley had those thoughts of the NBA coming out of Cleveland State (NCAA), because he did have a great senior year, but eight months after he played his last game there, he was playing in Iceland, where he had a better chance of seeing a polar bear than Lebron James working on his game in a gym. Every player has some idea just how difficult and rare it is too make the NBA, but it´s every player´s dream. The American also would never have thought back in 2005 when his career was coming to a close at Cleveland State (NCAA) just how enriching a career overseas can be. He definitely would see many different cultures and even lived in a small city in Germany for two seasons called Nordlingen that had a city wall. This is something that isn´t as common anymore in Germany as in quite a few cities you can see some remains of the city wall, but in Nordlingen the whole wall is still there and a real tourist attraction. Back in ancient times, the city wall was there to protect the people from intruders and a place where you could feel safe. It isn´t like in the former east Berlin where being behind the wall was like being in jail, because in Nordlingen you could leave anytime. But just being behind a wall can give on that feeling of being captured. Having lived behind the wall and still having the freedom to do what he could was something he most likely never cherished, because in 2014 his life has totally changed. He would probably have loved to have behind the wall in Nordlingen again, because he would still have been free, but the guy that had that amazing basketball talent wasn´t free, but was incarcerated between 2014-2019. Nordlingen was the rise and fall of Omari Westley. It is the story of a tragic tale of a young man that could have been a top player in Europe, but fell and was out of basketball in 2011. Omari Westley had the skill level of an NBA player but he took a different path.
Westley was born on February third, 1982 in Cleveland, Ohio and already made big waves at the high school level at East Cleveland Shaw High. There he averaged 20.4 points, 14.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game; and ended his high school career with over 1,800 points and 1,100 rebounds. He was striving for a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, but his grades simply weren´t good enough. Before reaching the NCAA in 2003, he had to pay his dues and played at Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois helping them win a title and then played a season with Barton County CC averaging 13.0 points and 6.9 rebounds a game as a sophomore, shooting .59% from the field and .72% from the line. However after getting into an altercation with an opponent, the school suspended him. He then moved to Cleveland State(NCAA), but had to sit out the 2002-2003 season failing to meet NCAA initial eligibility standards following his transfer from Barton County Community College. He had a lot of time to reflect that year, but at the same time got integrated to the team and then really took off in his junior season at Cleveland State (NCAA) playing 28 games averaging 14.8ppg, 8.6rpg, 2.0apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 21.4%, FT: 70.9%. His second season was even better there as he played 23 games averaging 17.1ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.2apg, 1.1bpg, FGP: 50.2%, 3PT: 18.8%, FT: 66.1%. However he never finished the season as on February 25 before the last regular season game head coach Mike Garland dropped him from the team after he missed two practices and a game for no reason. He had success as a player with his stats and was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team in 2004, the All-Horizon League 2nd Team in 2005 and played at the Black College All-Star Game in 2005 (Ohio All-Stars team). The team had no success in the two seasons and the Westley trend of having disciplinary problems continued to plague him and it wouldn´t end there, but continue throughout his basketball life. In his first two professional seasons he landed with four teams. In his rookie season he played with KR Reykjavik tearing up the Iceland-Iceland Express League in the 8 games he played averaging 23.1ppg, 11.3rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg, 1.5bpg, 2FGP: 56,8%, 3PT: 44,4%, FT: 72,1%, but left in January 2006 after having been an allstar and finished the season with Racing Luxembourg (Luxembourg-DBBL). In his second professional season he made the jump to the Eiffel Towers Den Bosch (Holland-Eredivisie) suffering a tough car accident and was released in November 2006, but wasn´t out of a job long joining ToPo Helsinki (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 13 Finnish League games averaging 14.8ppg, 7.2rpg, FGP: 68.2%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 76.9%. After two professional seasons one could say that he rebounded twice from negative experiences and finished strong and he went into his third professional season with added self confidence and this was when his career would reach it´s peak.
The American came to Germany in his third professional season to a very ambitious second division team with the VPV Giants Noerdlingen (Germany-ProA), but again didn´t get a job right away and started in December, but came to a winning team. Right away his game meshed perfectly with the club and he won Pro A player of the month in March 2008 and finished the season helping the team move up to the BBL(ist division) playing 17 games averaging 15.4ppg, 7.5rpg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 72.2%. He remained for a second season and the club which had four real strong players with him and Americans Monta Mcghee and Danny Gibson and Canadian Osvaldo Jeanty pretty much carried the team as their bench was almost nonexistent. “I will miss most knowing these guys went to war with me on the court”, expressed Omari Westley to me in June 2009 in an interview. Despite getting most of their points from these four players, the club was able to stay in the BBL with a good enough record of 11-23, but then declined to remain on account of financial reasons. Westley was a 201cm forward that had always been an accomplished scorer and could best be described as a playmaker who scores. He scored both inside and out, rebounded, defended and blocked shots giving you the five-tool player needed to build the team around. Westley was the team leader in his second season there and led the league in scoring playing 33 games averaging 15.9ppg, was fifth in rebounding at 7.4rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 63.3%. He may have had disciplinary problems all through his life and knew how good he was, but one thing was for sure, he did show a lot of respect for his peers. In an interview I did with him after his season in June 2009, he knew that defeating EWE Baskets legend Rickey Paulding in the scoring race was no easy task. “You know I always watched Rickey in college so its great company, but there was a difference he didn´t have to score much for his team to have success but me on the other hand I needed to score for us to be in the game so, I might respect his scoring a little more”, added Omari Westley. Even if the team didn´t win much, their big season highlight was sweeping Bamberg something that was unheard of only a season later as the Chris Fleming era commenced in Bamberg. “When we went in Bamberg and beat them it was to amazing for words to describe. Now on the other hand I made some individual achievements that surprised myself and others, but winning games is what matters and the win Bamberg was too sweet”, stressed Omari Westley.
The American was a beast scoring in double figures in 26 of 33 games. had 7 double doubles and scored 20 points or more 11 times. His personal scoring highlights that season included a game winning step back trey winning shot over Braunschweig, 26 point games against Trier, Frankfurt, Bamberg and Oldenburg, 25 points against Artland, and 24 points against Tuebingen and Ulm. His ex teammate Canadian Osvaldo Jeanty who is a banker today in Ottawa had a solid 6 year professional career that had him wear the Nordlingen, Giessen and Bayreuth jersey´s remembers some of these games very fondly. “I remember that Braunschweig buzzer beater and his game in Bamberg. He didn´t miss and was in the zone. He stepped up to the challenge that game as Bamberg was one of the best teams then in the BBL. Nobody could stop him”, warned Osvaldo Jeanty. Even as he was on the rise and seemingly ready to make the next step to a top BBL team or to another country where there was more money, he wasn´t satisfied, but knew exactly where his weaknesses were and knew his dream of being able to help out at the point like his idol Magic Johnson was nothing more than a dream and far away from reality. “I learned patience from being over in Nordlingen that´s one thing for sure, but the things I still need to work on is ball handling and defense. I would need to become a better ball handler and cut down on turnovers would only be a start. I would also need prayers from every one around the world for that to happen at the point guard position”, added Omari Westley. “Many don´t know but we played together already the year before in the second Bundesliga and then moved up. He could do it all. He could shoot, defend the positions 1-4, catch the alley-op using his athleticism and had a fast cross over. It never surprised me how well he did in the BBL. Teams had to double team him, because nobody could cover him one on one. He took all the attention away with his game which made it easier for me to play my game. His career really should of blossomed after the BBL. Chris Copeland who later would play in the NBA was the same size as Westley, but Omari was better. He had more tools than Copeland”, warned Osvaldo Jeanty.
However there was also a dark side to Omari Westley that did come to play during the season. The American might have been an incredible player, but his decision making and making the wrong choices off the court most likely was his downfall for the rest of his career. It was no secret that the club was having financial difficulties, but stealing money from the club office surely wasn´t the right route to go. According to sources the American just did that and after that when he was searching for a new team, he didn´t necessarily get the best recommendation from the club which made his BBL career pretty much end before it could possibly have reached the ultimate high. An ex teammate of Westley who wanted to stay off the record remembered Westley this way. “ He was a monster player, really athletic and had a great shot. He had NBA potential, but in his head he was a kid. He was totally crazy and never listened to the coach. The rumor that he stole money from the team is 99% true. They found traces of his foot print. It could be that the organization spoke bad of him but he also didn´t conduct himself well. When coach said time for sprints he jogged and said screw you. He had no respect for coach Wagner. The club let a lot go with his attitude because they knew they couldn’t stay in the league without him. He was a nice guy but just had a terrible attitude”. After Nordlingen, the American played in countries where there is a lot of money, but the level of play suspect and way lower than where he should have been. He played with Kazma (Kuwait-D1), Al Arabi Club Doha (Qatar-D1) and Al Gharafa (Qatar-D1) and then his basketball career abruptly ended
I saw Omari Westley play three times Live and watched the Fraport Skyliners sweep the regular season in 2008-2009 and also win a cup game in Frankfurt. Even though I was extensively covering the Deutsche Bank Skyliners in the 2008-2009 season, I had just got on board writing for eurobasket.com and was really getting even more involved with not only various German leagues, but starting to interview more and more guys including Omari Westley on a regular basis. I remember calling him in Nordlingen that season and having him as a guest on my weekly radio show. I remember a guy that was very confident in his abilities, but also a guy that had a great passion for the game. Our relationship would grow in that season and we would keep that contact until 2012 when was the last time I spoke to him. I remember fondly tracking the Nordlingen Giants season that year, because it was fascinating to see what that team could do with really only four players carrying the team. I remember him being an extremely versatile player that could take over a game and really drive opponent´s defense nuts with his ability to score in many ways. He had an NBA body and his athleticism was amazing. I remember doing an in depth interview with him a few days after Christmas in 2008 which I unfortunately don´t have anymore, but I really appreciated his willingness to be ready to talk basketball even during the holiday season when the BBL was in a hectic phase as the games never stopped, but kept going. When the season ended, I was looking forward to the summer and following his summer transfer period, but as the summer went on and on, I kept waiting for a top BBL team to announce his arrival. But it never happened and I was rather perplexed. I had been in contact with him the whole season, but when the season ended, our contact got a bit better as we would talk online and he told me of his basketball woes. It didn´t take long for him to tell me the fiasco with the alleged stolen money from the Nordlingen Giants organization. I had a welcoming ear and tried to find the best soothing words whenever we talked. He also didn´t waste much time describing the tough feeling that he had still sitting by the phone waiting for a team to call while many of his ex teammates were already signed and back in Europe getting ready for the new season. I remember trying to give advice about possible good fits and telling him for his agent to contact these teams. When I asked if anybody had tried to contact him, the answer was always no.
Even if the thought of not playing at a very high level in the future was very difficult for the Ohio native, not only did basketball life go on, but so did real life and the reality of it was that he had a family that he needed to feed. He was unable to find any employment in Germany so he went to the middle east, a place that is enticing because the money is good, but then again one has to ask one´s self if these places really were the best fits for the American who was entering his prime and still had many good years left. He was out of basketball in 2011 after having played in Kuwait and Qatar. For any one that knew the talent that the kid had, it is mindboggling how a guy of his talent literally was out of basketball before the age of 30. Not long ago, I searched You Tube for any kind of videos on Omari Westley and there was a total amount of two. In the one video, he was somewhere in Dubai on top of a building by a nice pool. One could have believed that he was living life to the fullest, but then again anyone who probably was would have posted totally different kind of videos with the money, cars and babes. In the short video, he is talking a lot of slang and really presenting himself like a kid who was able to live the dream of being a professional basketball player in Europe for a little while, but unfortunately despite living in some very nice cultures never grew up. I spoke the last time to him on June 12th 2012 and just out of curiosity probably hit him up wanting to know how he was doing. Often I love checking up on players who I might have lost a little contact to for 1-2 years and check their eurobasket.com profile. It was summer 2012 and he hadn´t played the last season. I remember that he was really upbeat talking how he was in the gym all the time and how confident he was about continuing his basketball career. But then came the bomb from him. “I´m heading out to Afghanastan to play basketball. My eyes got bigger and my mouth almost fell to the ground in disbelief. Ok there are quite many places on earth where a professional player shouldn´t play like in a place where a war is going on or in a country where teams have a reputation of not paying you your money. I responded with. “Why would you want to play in Afghanastan? I would be afraid to go there” Then it dawned on me that he was totally desperate. I never heard from him again.
Sometime in early 2014 I was again in the mood of checking on a player and how he was doing and the name Omari Westley popped up. I tried to contact him on social media and then noticed that he hadn´t been active for many months. At that point, I didn´t figure anything bad had happened. Often a person will get away from social media and return to reality and real life for a bit before returning back. But I was a bit miffed why his activeness suddenly stopped . So I googled him and quickly I found a big mug shot of him and was shocked. But then again it didn´t shock me too much considering his past. He and two other guys attacked a restaurant owner where they believed had had money on him. Three guns were found at the home believing to have belonged to them. All three were hit with first-degree felony charges of aggravated robbery at their initial appearance. It may not seem like much, but crime never pays in the states and jail time can become very extensive as he found out. He started his sentence on July 2, 2014 and would have been out on January 16th, 2020, but came free in autumn 2019. His ex teammate Osvaldo Jeanty has fond memories of his ex teammate, but cites his youthfulness as something that hindered his path to stardom. “Omari was dealt a bad hand. He was a great player, but a lack of maturity off the court took him to where he is today. He was a great guy and teammate. He always had my back and I always had his back. He made some bad decisions and people never forgot and he never recovered. For me it was just tough seeing first hand of how he probably would have gone to Spain and dominated, played Euroleague and NBA, but all of a sudden he never made it. He was the best player that I ever saw that didn´t make it”, warned Osvaldo Jeanty. Exactly if his Afghanastan gig ever panned out, I don’t know, but some time soon after he must of given up on basketball and tried to start a new life at home in Ohio. He obviously hung out with the wrong crowd and with bad decision making landed in jail. Omari Westley is a tragic case, but not uncommon in the world of basketball. One can only hope that he will come out of jail a changed man and get back on track right way and stay away from the wrong crowd. He really was a good guy, but a kid that probably wanted to become a man, but just couldn´t. I can remember his last words to me concerning Afghanistan. His response to me saying “Why would you want to play in Afghanistan? “I would be afraid to go there “ was simple and direct. “Me scared”? I´m Omari Westley nothing scares me”. One can only hope that after spending more than 5 years in jail that he isn´t scared from starting over and being a good person in society something I know that he can be. I´m sure that he will do good now. Perhaps getting into some kind of capacity with basketball the game he loves will help him get back into society and help him do good things and give back to the community. At the moment he is working, but obviously would love to get back to playing professional basketball, but after being away from the game for almost 10 years, who would give him a realistic chance? I would love to see Omari ball again at any level. The guy definitely deserves another chance in the real world. He made some wrong decisions in his life, but deep down he is a good guy. I wrote him after he got out of jail asking how he was and that I missed him. “He wrote back I´m ok and same here”. It was a long time without you. Good to have you back Omari.