BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Introductions are necessary.
The Xavier basketball team that begins practice for the 1998-99 season at Midnight Madness on Friday night will only vaguely resemble last year's squad.
Oh sure, there's Gary Lumpkin, Lenny Brown and James Posey. Fans know all about them. But after that, get out your program. There are so many new faces, it might be tough to keep track for a while. With that in mind, let's get up to speed on the Musketeers:
Just how many new guys are there?
Well, there's incoming freshmen Lloyd Price, Kevin Frey, Aaron Turner and Brandon McIntosh, junior college transfers Obi Harris and Desmond Walker, redshirt freshman Alvin Brown (who was injured last season) and 6-foot-8 walk-on James Baronas from Baltimore. That's eight. Another one or two walkons will be added later.
Is everyone eligible to play?
Friday at Xavier |
7-8 p.m.: Pizza tailgate party in parking lot by O'Connor Sports Center.
8-10 p.m.: XU women's soccer vs. Massachusetts.
9:30-10:30 p.m.: Season-ticket holders reception in Armory. 10:30 p.m.: Doors open to Schmidt Fieldhouse for Midnight Madness activities.
11 p.m.-midnight: Various on-court activities; Byron Larkin, new XU radio color analyst, will emcee.
12:15 a.m.: Brief women's basketball scrimmage.
12:30 a.m.: Brief men's basketball scrimmage.
No. McIntosh is an academic non-qualifier and will not practice or travel with the team this season. If he finishes the year in good academic standing, the Roger Bacon High School graduate will be on scholarship next season.
Turner is a partial qualifier. He narrowly missed getting the necessary test score. He can practice, lift weights and do conditioning drills with the team, but can't travel or play in games. If he graduates in four years, he can apply for a fourth year of eligibility.
That's if he doesn't play this year. Xavier is preparing an appeal to an NCAA subcommittee after Turner was diagnosed with a learning disability. Athletic Director Mike Bobinski said he does not know what the odds are Turner would have his eligibility restored. Bobinski does not expect a decision until November.
Is there one new guy, in particular, to watch?
Price might be the highest-rated recruit ever to come to Xavier. Recruiting experts and coaches love Price. He is an exciting player and a charismatic person with aspirations of playing professionally. He should have an immediate impact either as a starter or as the first guy off the bench.
Sure. Harris or Walker or Frey or Turner (if he becomes eligible) will have a chance to start and - or play a major role.
So, what is the starting lineup?
That's the million-dollar question. Write in Brown, Lumpkin and Posey with a pen. After that, it will depend on the preseason practices. If Price is impossible to keep out of the lineup, he could start at small forward with Posey at the power forward spot. That might make XU a little small.
Otherwise, Posey would start at small forward with Walker or Frey starting at power forward and Harris or Reggie Butler or Walker at center. If Turner is eligible, he might be hard to keep off the floor.
How deep can Xavier go?
Head coach Skip Prosser has used mostly seven or eight players over the last few seasons but insists he'd use more if more players were productive. This has a chance to be his deepest team, but there is no way to know how the new players will respond when games begin. One thing is for sure, they're better off making a good impression early. Once Prosser settles on players, it's harder to break into the rotation.
Sophomore Maurice McAfee, who got some valuable experience last season, will back up Lumpkin at point guard.
How is Darnell Williams?
Last year's leading scorer, who severely injured his knee in June, has pleased everyone at Xavier with his attitude and work ethic in rehabilitating after knee surgery. Williams can get around short distances without crutches but uses one crutch for long distances.
What are the chances he'll play this year?
Xavier is not counting on Williams, who will likely redshirt. Prosser said he would only let Williams return if he was "100 percent," and chances of that are slim. Perhaps late in the season, Williams can participate in some aspects of practice.
What are expectations for the team?
The Musketeers are in the top 20 in just about every preseason publication and are almost always picked to win the Atlantic 10 West Division for the third straight year. Athlon magazine picks XU as an Elite Eight team.
The non-conference season will be interesting. The fifth game could be against Kentucky in Puerto Rico. If XU wins, UCLA could be waiting. In the following week, XU faces Miami and Purdue. That's a tough stretch. There may be some early lumps as the new guys learn, but that doesn't mean XU won't be ready to compete for the league title after the first of the year and go for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
Did Prosser do anything interesting this summer?
Aside from a vacation to Ireland and England with his wife, Nancy, Prosser was invited to Scotland around Labor Day to give basketball clinics. Before he left, Prosser participated in an MSNBC town meeting at the Aronoff Center to discuss the White House sex scandal.
Any changes on the coaching staff?
Mark Gaffney replaces Michael Davenport as an assistant coach. Gaffney does not recruit off campus; he works with on-court instruction, scheduling and conditioning. He is more intense than the easy-going Davenport.
Jeff Battle and Mark Schmidt, who have been XU's main recruiters, begin their sixth year with Prosser.
Speaking of recruiting, how's it going?
David Young, a shooting guard from New Castle, Pa., and Lionel Chalmers, a point guard from Albany, N.Y., have already made oral commitments. Both could end up as top-100 players in some recruiting services.
XU has one more scholarship and is looking for a big man. Ricky Wright (East Chicago, Ind.), John Oden (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Mike Matthews (Fork Union Military Academy) are among the players whose coaches have said Xavier is recruiting them.
What are the graduated seniors doing?
Pat Kelsey is in Cincinnati interviewing for jobs and considering going to law school next fall. He and Northern Kentucky alum Paul Cluxton ran a series of summer basketball camps last summer. Terrance Payne and T.J. Johnson have remained in Cincinnati and are working in the criminal justice system downtown. Torraye Braggs, drafted by the NBA's Utah Jazz, is playing in Spain until the NBA lockout ends.