West attended and graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he was a four-year starter on the basketball team. West was the first XU player to get his number retired while still playing for the Musketeers, during which he led Xavier to a top 10 national ranking and a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. West was named as a first-team All-American his senior year and the 2003 Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year, averaging 20.1 ppg and 11.8 rpg as a senior while leading XU to its second straight 26–6 season. West led Xavier to 94 wins in his four seasons while finishing as Xavier's all-time blocked shot leader (228 blocks) and second on XU's all-time scoring (2,132 points) and rebounding (1,308 rebounds) lists. West was also named as the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year three years in a row. As a senior, he was selected as the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner, recognizing him as the nation's top senior men's basketball player.
West was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in the first round, eighteenth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. After recording modest production in his first two seasons, in 2005–06 West enjoyed a breakthrough, averaging 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds with a .512 FG% in 74 games. That year, he finished second in the voting for the NBA Most Improved Player Award, behind Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns. He also saw some time at center, due to the team's lack of a true big man. That season he demonstrated an ability to perform under pressure, as he converted three game-winning jump shots.
In 2006–07, West ended the season averaging 18.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Despite missing 30 games due to an elbow injury, West recorded five games of 30 or more points and 13 games of 20 or more points.
West again increased his statistical production in 2007–08, and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game as a reserve, along with teammate Chris Paul. Paul later stated that he would rather not play with a power forward in the league other than West, because "he's not in it for the spotlight, all he cares about is getting buckets [scoring]." West reinforced his desire to be a team player in a 2008 postseason interview, saying that he does not care about being overlooked but would rather focus on "play[ing] and be[ing] as effective as possible" when he is out on the court.
In 2008–09 West repeated as an all-star and posted a new career high by scoring 21.0 points per game.
West is extremely interested in "black history, philosophy and various societal issues".
West graduated from Xavier with a bachelor of arts degree in Communications. He is also an accomplished musician who plays the tuba. He and his wife, Lesley, have one daughter, Dasia, and one son, David Benjamin.
West also loves to make mixtapes for his teammates, saying that it is a healthy habit that keeps him "in the house and off [his] feet".
West comes from a family of above-average height. His mother, Harriet, is 6 ft tall (1.83 m), while his father, Amos, is 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m).
West has a Xavier "X" tattooed on his arm which displays, on either side, "My life, my way".