Power forwards have come through Xavier at a pretty heady clip, stretching back through David West, Tyrone Hill, and beyond, but true centers have been a little more difficult to come by. Other than the ill-fated career of the 6'10" Obi Harris, Xavier's bigs have been more suited to filling the four or occupying more horizontal space than vertical. It was partially in response to this futility that the Xavier faithful were so excited about the arrival of Kenny Frease - a legit seven-footer with bulk to go with his height - on campus.
Big Kenny averaged 21/12/3 as a senior at Perry in Massilon, OH, and was rated as the number 42 recruit in the nation that year by Rivals.com. His abilities in high school probably only served to contribute to the general feelings of disappointment when the hirsute center averaged 5 and 4 for his first two years in Cinci. He would occasionally flash hints of his potential - 13 and 12 against Duquesne, 7 and 12 against LSU - but also had the occasional no-show, like the 0 and 2 he posted against Dayton, George Washington, and Kent State as a sophomore.Kenny began rounding into form last year, even as his body became less round. Kenny posted 12 and 7 as a junior, including monster games like 22 and 14 against Wake, 12 and 18 against Wofford, and 17 and 10 against St Joseph's. His commitment to fitness in the offseason paid off in terms of how much time he spent on the floor; his 28.5 MPG was up more than 12 minutes per from his previous high as a sophomore. Coming into this season, Muskie fans are hoping that Frease will finally get whole value from his not inconsiderable potential.
Best case: Frease beasts up and makes the lane his property. He takes care of business in the early stages of the season against weaker teams and owns the Atlantic 10 throughout January and February. Against the toughest teams on the Xavier schedule, he plays like the top-grade big man he was brought in to be, giving Xavier an edge against top competition. His fitness after the "Summer of Transformation 2.0" allows him to average 30 minutes on the floor per game, balancing out the perimeter-oriented attack Xavier might otherwise have.
Worst case: The questions of toughness, dedication, and decision making that have followed Kenny throughout his career continue this season. With the dominant players and personalities on the team occupying the guard positions, Frease fades into the backdrop this year. With other go-to offensive players in the post, he doesn't assert himself on the floor and ends up averaging 10 and 7 in 25 mostly forgettable minutes.
Most likely: There's no reason to think that Frease won't make another step up in production this year like he did last season. With more shooters around the perimeter to open the lane, Frease feasts against weaker opponents like he did against Bellarmine. With opponents like Robert Sacre of Gonzaga and Yancy Gates of UC on the docket, Big Kenny can keep the Muskies in games that they don't have any other weapons to handle. Kenny should be good for 14 and 9 or so this season while holding down the fort inside and making his way to the NBA draft (assuming there is one).