BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A handful of days are left to experiment.
Xavier's next games are at home against two of the weaker opponents on the schedule. Today it's Chicago State, 0-2 and coming off a 2-25 season. On Monday night, it's Morgan State, 0-3 and coming off a 12-16 season.
For now, the XU coaches are using different combinations in practice. Roles are not defined. The lineup is not set.
By late next week, when the level of competition increases dramatically, the Musketeers will stabilize. Players not producing by then will be hard-pressed for playing time.
Here is what awaits the Musketeers:
All within 10 days.
- Pittsburgh Thursday in Puerto Rico;
- No. 4 Kentucky if both teams win first-round games;
- No. 6 Maryland or No. 11 UCLA, barring upsets;
- No. 15 Purdue at the Crown.
"Offensively, we need to be much more efficient," coach Skip Prosser said. "We need to have more guys contribute."
This is an important time for freshman Kevin Frey and junior Desmond Walker.
CHICAGO ST. at XU
When: 2 p.m. today|
Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
Records: Chicago State 0-2, Xavier 1-0
Radio: WCKY-AM (1360)
BY THE NUMBERS
100: Career victories for coach Skip Prosser if XU wins today.
303: Final RPI ranking for Chicago State last season.
62: Average points scored by Chicago State.
1: Number of times XU scored 62 or fewer points in a game last season.
Both first-year players are competing for time mostly at power forward. Because neither emerged during preseason practices, Xavier started the season with slender 6-foot-8 James Posey at power forward and 6-5 freshman Lloyd Price at small forward.
That gives the Musketeers a smaller lineup than starting Posey at small forward and Frey or Walker, both 6-8, at power forward.
"They still have a long way to go," Prosser said. "I'm counting on those guys to be productive by (next week). There's a power forward spot there to be grabbed for Kevin, for Des, maybe even for Obi (Harris). But they have to be productive and show me they can do it."
The season-opener at Butler gave little indication of what Frey can do. He was in foul trouble all night and played just six minutes.
"Right now I'm just concerned about moving my feet quicker on defense, getting around the post," Frey said. "I don't think I did that well enough. I didn't really get a good feel for the game."
Frey missed his only field goal attempt and had one turnover in his brief stint against Butler. He averaged 11.5 points and five rebounds in two exhibition games.
After sitting on the bench most of the season opener, Frey was struck by the atmosphere.
"I was thinking how crazy it is," Frey said. "The fans for Butler are going crazy; you could hear our fans yelling stuff back. It was unbelievable. It gives you so much more energy."
Walker, too, is getting used to the speed of Division I basketball.
The Alabama native and Florida Community College product probably came in as the leading candidate to start at power forward, but he has struggled in the transition from offense to defense and in sustaining his effort on the court.
Prosser praised Walker's defense Tuesday night against Mike Marshall, Butler's best player. In 16 minutes, Walker had four points, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He also had four turnovers and missed all four of his free-throw attempts.
"I think I played pretty hard on defense," he said. "Offensively I wasn't mentally prepared. We press after every made basket. Sometimes the (power forward) will be on the ball and sometimes he won't be on the ball, so you really have to think.
"There were a lot of times (in junior college) I didn't have to think. All I had to do was put the shoe laces in the shoes and get out there and play."
Walker knows that he has gotten by on his athletic ability in the past, but that it's not going to be that easy anymore.
What Prosser wants most is to see consistency out of Walker.
"I really need to show him that I can score," Walker said. "I've got to show him that I can hustle every minute that I'm in. Sometimes he says that I hustle one minute, and the next minute I kind of lay back a little.
"Sometimes I get to thinking I'm in junior college, and I don't hustle as hard as I could. There are some plays when I think just because I'm tall and I can jump, the ball's going to come to me. But it's not like that here."