Coach Mack has established a reputation as an up-and-coming young coach, thanks in large part to his two conference championships and two Sweet Sixteen appearances in his first three years at Xavier. The stars and most of the role players on those teams - Jordan Crawford, Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Jason Love, Kenny Frease - were brought in by Sean Miller.
Beginning with this season, the Musketeers should be seeing the fruits of Coach Mack's recruiting since being named the Head Coach. Here is a year-by-year breakdown of players who have verbally committed to Xavier under Mack's watch and what they are doing now.
Jeff Robinson - PF
Robinson is the only player Coach Mack signed in 2009, owing to the fact that Sean Miller took his signees with him when he left for Arizona. Plenty of digital ink has been spilled regarding Robinson's up and down performance at Xavier, but he is a valuable roster player. Unfortunately, he has been forced into a situation in which his role is something other than just providing depth at his position.
Bottom line: Mack was put into a tough position by the lateness of Miller's departure, so he gets a bit of a pass for this year. A player of Robinson's size and skill may have developed into a very good forward, but - barring a huge turnaround this year - that seems unlikely to be the case.
Jay Canty - G/F
Canty was the kind of wing that should have been a great building block for Xavier. He was touted as able to fill the stat sheet with his combination of intensity and effort. While not a great shooter, he was equipped to do just about everything else on the basketball court. Instead, he saw scant time despite a very thin roster his freshman year before transferring out to Appalachian State.
Jordan Latham - PF
According to Dave Telep, Jodran Latham "could remind Xavier fans of Derrick Brown at times." A long and athletic power forward, Latham instead struggled to find any playing time as a freshman, making even less of an impact than Canty did. He did leave Xavier before finishing his eligibility, which I guess is one way he reminded fans of Brown. While Brown went to the NBA, though, Latham transferred to Loyola-Maryland after his freshman year.
Griffin McKenzie - PF
McKenzie is the kind of face-up four that has made a habit of eviscerating Xavier over the past couple of years. He came out of high school with some question marks about his toughness but none about his ability to shoot the badly. Sadly, he was the victim of a brutal assault the summer before his freshman year that derailed his transition into college. McKenzie transferred to Denver after his sophomore year, where his run of bad luck continued with a torn labrum.
Justin Martin - G/F
Martin was the jewel of this recruiting class for Mack and Xavier; an ESPN100 wing whose offensive game was supposed to be able to make an impact right away at the NCAA level. Instead, he sat out his freshman year as a partial qualifier and then looked overwhelmed when he finally stepped onto the court for Xavier. Martin is still a Musketeer, which is something none of the other members of this class have going for them.
Bottom line: To me, this is where it really went off the rails for Mack. Given a full year of recruiting time, he managed to get four guys who combined for 243 fairly unproductive minutes that year. Even if you write off their lack of production as freshmen, these guys should be juniors now. At a school like Xavier, productive upperclassmen are the foundation of a successful program. Instead, three of these four guys are no longer on the roster and the fourth didn't impress many people with his 2.9/2.5/0.5 game line on .420/.317/.357 shooting last year.
Michael Chandler - C
Chandler is a huge (6'10" 225) human being who has all the skills to be an impact center in the NCAA. Chandler had decommitted from Louisville before giving a verbal to X. Unfortunately, he then chose to pull the same move with Xavier, instead committing to Central Florida. The third time was not a charm for Chandler, who is currently enrolled at Northwest Florida State and will spend two years there playing and working on his eligibility.
Dezmine Wells - SF
This one went about perfectly. Wells signed early with Xavier, never showed any signs of wavering, and then was exactly what he was supposed to be once he set foot on the court. Sadly, other things got in the way and Wells will play out his career at the University of Maryland. A darn shame, but not really something you can lay at Mack's feet.
Dee Davis - PG
I just want to say that I love Dee Davis. Hardworking, scrappy, and intense, he's the perfect change of pace guard to fluster the other team's primary ballhandler. Of course, he may end up having to do more than that this year, with the backcourt fairly empty.
Bottom line: Chandler was a clear miss. In retrospect, the fact that Xavier went after him may raise some red flags regarding how well the program is looking into the eligibility of players it brings in (more on that later). Still, Wells was amazing and losing him wasn't Mack's fault, and Davis is a very good squad player who may be forced into a bigger role. Not a horrible class.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - G
Smith-Rivera is a big-bodied combo guard who is built like a bull (6'3", 230) and can score from just about anywhere on the court. He was committed to Xavier for about two months in late 2010 before opening things back up and eventually signing with Georgetown, where he will begin his career this year.
Sim Bhullar - C
Bhullar is an enormous player, measuring 7'4", 330 according to ESPN.com. Bhullar was committed to Xavier in April 2011, but by August of that year had decided that New Mexico State was the right place for him. Bhullar's decommitment ultimately came because he was unable to qualify to play in the 2011-2012 season and not willing to pay tuition at Xavier while waiting to become eligible after reclassing.
Myles Davis - SG and Jalen Reynolds - PF
These guys get lumped together because of their similar situations. Davis is a shooter with range into the third row. Reynolds is a long power forward with potentially game-changing athletic ability. Both committed to Xavier early in the process. Both spent a year at prep school to get their academics in order. Both were declared ineligible to participate on this year's team. Both are paying their own way to Xavier this season.
Semaj Christon - PG
Christon is probably the best thing Xavier has going in this class. Semaj is a skilled and athletic PG with range to the arc and the ability to get to the rim. ESPN doesn't rank players who have gone to prep school, but Scout and Rivals have Christon in the top 100 of incoming freshmen this year.
James Farr - PF
Farr is a tall (6'10") and skilled power forward who will fit well in Xavier's ball screen offense. He has range out to about 19' and is aggressive on the glass at both ends. Farr's biggest limitation right now is his weight, which is generously listed in the 220 range. Adding further bulk will help Farr be successful as his career at Xavier goes on.
Bottom line: It's too early to tell which of these guys will be successful at the college level, but having Davis and Reynolds ineligible is a huge blow to this class. Neither of those guys will be able to practice with the team this year, either, leading to a fully lost year in their causes. Xavier was going to need big things from Christon going forward, but he and Farr are going to be called on to be a big part of the program from day one.
Chris Thomas - G
A former top recruit and 6'5" scoring machine, Thomas rescinded his verbal commitment to Xavier earlier this week. More details here.
Bottom line: Not too much to say about this class at this point, but losing Thomas - off the court issues aside - is not a harbinger of good.
The bottom line is this: programs at Xavier's level are built on talented incoming players developing into functional upperclassmen. Missing one one or two players hurts a school; missing on a whole class leaves a gap in the ranks when those players should have been juniors and seniors. Mack was hamstrung by his late promotion in 2009 and whiffed on the 2010 class. He lost the gem of the 2011 class when Dez Wells was expelled and again ran into eligibility issues in the 2012 class.
This should be the time where the team is transitioning to all players recruited by Coach Mack. Instead, there are eight scholarship players on the roster, holes are being plugged by transfers, and the whole thing seems poised on the brink of collapse. This year is going to be a huge challenge for Xavier on the court, but what happens on the recruiting trail may well determine the success or failure of the program for the near future.