When Skip Prosser fast-forwards his thoughts to Xavier's 1998-99 season, two areas of concern stand out:
One day after being ousted from the NCAA Tournament by Washington 69-68 in an East Regional first-round game, Prosser and the Musketeers returned Friday to Cincinnati. Shortly after the Final Four, the players will begin preparing for next season.
It should be an interesting year. Expectations will vary from those who focus on the returning corps of four to those who recognize there isn't much experience after that group.
GUARDS Ht Yr
Alvin Brown 6-3 FR
Lenny Brown 6-2 SR
Gary Lumpkin 6-2 SR
Maurice McAfee 6-0 SO
Lloyd Price 6-4 FR
CENTERS Ht Yr
Reggie Butler 6-10 SO
Garvin Davis 6-10 FR
FORWARDS Ht Yr
Kevin Frey 6-7 FR
James Posey 6-8 SR
Aaron Turner 6-7 FR
Nate Turner 6-8 JR
Darnell Williams 6-4 SR
Gary Lumpkin and Lenny Brown should remain the starting backcourt for the fourth straight year. Darnell Williams is likely to start at the small forward spot for the fourth year, and substitute extraordinaire James Posey will probably became the starting power forward.
That leaves the center position up for grabs and a bench thin on experience. Maurice McAfee will be the only returning reserve with significant playing time.
Last fall, Prosser was hoping some reserves would emerge and contribute. Would have been nice, but also a luxury.
Prosser would like to go eight or nine deep. In October, returning reserves and newcomers must be able to contribute. There is no choice.
''If they don't,'' Prosser said, ''we're not going to be very good.
''I think we have a good nucleus. You're always going to lose some guys. Now it's up to the other guys to step up their games.'' The Musketeers showed at times this season that even six players aren't enough. There was no depth on this team, which finished 22-8 and won Atlantic 10 division and tournament titles.
So, what to ponder this offseason?
What is lost? Four-year starter T.J. Johnson may not have scored much this season, but his experience and intelligence on the court, especially in defending big men, will be missed.
Torraye Braggs brought an array of talent, intensity and versatility that fit perfectly into XU's system.
Pat Kelsey, though used sparingly in games, was the consummate team player, unselfish and unrelenting in practice. He no doubt made XU's guards better. Though he has not announced it officially, Terrance Payne, who graduates in May but has a year of eligibility left, is not expected to return.
What is gained? Incoming freshman Kevin Frey already is eligible and brings a love of the game and great work ethic.
Lloyd Price, who needs the required test score to be eligible, is noted for being able to beat an opponent off the dribble. Aaron Turner, who also needs his test score, has proven a good scorer and hard worker at prep school.
Garvin Davis needs to gain strength; he will be eligible upon graduation from prep school. XU coaches still want and need a junior college big man. Desmond Walker, who already visited, won't decide where he wants to go until next month.
Leaders: While a handful of Musketeers have played in a season where opponents give them their best effort, several players next season will be new to the scene. Leadership is going to be important. Veterans will have to work with younger players.
For reasons he can't explain, Prosser said there were stretches during the season when the Musketeers played not to lose, including Thursday in Washington, D.C. Losing poise, being outhustled, playing tentatively and not with confidence are characteristics not expected of a veteran club.
At the airport Friday morning, Prosser bumped into South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler, whose team was also upset Thursday (by Richmond) and who said his team played the same way as Xavier.
''As a coach, you always question what else could I have done,'' Prosser said. ''That's what I've been doing the last 24 hours. All you can do is keep working.''
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