In my player preview of James Farr this year I wrote "Farr will absolutely have to capitalize on every single chance he gets. With a team this deep though, those chances figure to be few and far between unless the big man starts burying some shots" at the end of wasn't exactly a glowing writeup of his chances coming in to the season. Buried behind Isaiah Philmore, Jalen Reynolds, Matt Stainbrook, and Erik Stenger, I just didn't see where the Farr we all saw last year was going to get his time.
The first game of the season last year was when Farr made his strongest impression, and he did it again this year by going for 10/9/0 against Gardner Webb. In only seven minutes of time against Tennessee (he accrued four fouls in that span) Farr went for 4/3/0. In the next game against Morehead State, he went 8/0/0, and then last night he torched Miami for 11/11/0 in recording his first career double. Other than the fact that it may take an act of God for him to record an assist, what is it that we've learned about Farr in the 44 minutes he's played this year?
- He's a shoot first big who is not shy: Ken Pomeroy of the always useful KenPom.com keeps a statistic called usage percentage. Basically, the stat tracks how often a certain player end his team's possessions, either by a make, a miss that generates a defensive rebound, or a turnover. The leader for Xavier this year? James Farr.
Farr has a usage of 27.9%, which would put him easily in the top 200 nationally if he had enough minutes. Farr has taken the court this year, and immediately started doing his thing and doing it well. That speaks to a great deal of confidence. So far that usage has led to an offensive rating of 121.3 on the back of only seven missed shots and a paltry four turnovers.
- He can rebound very well: Last year Farr played 42 minutes and grabbed 14 rebounds. That's a decent rate somewhat negated by the fact that Farr lived mostly as urban legend except in the deepest of garbage times. This year the sophomore has 35.7% of available offensive rebounds and 22..7% of available defensive rebounds. There is nothing to call those numbers except astronomical.
Both of Farr's marks would be good for the top ten in the nation if he had grabbed enough minutes to qualify (Matt Stainbrook's 15.9% offensive mark does qualify for a very good 83rd). Rather than lingering on the outside like a lot of guys who love to shoot, Farr is rampaging on the glass at almost unheard of rates.
- He fouls way too much: Part and parcel with massive effort on the boards come some fouls in the scrap for rebounds. To say that James Farr fouls a lot is a bit like saying John Calipari sometimes cheats. It really fails to tell the whole story. (Side note: Calipari always cheats, but I don't have a stat for that). If Farr were allowed to play 40 minutes without fouling out, he would rack up an extremely impressive 9.1 fouls. Put another way that means that if Farr were allowed to start a game and play until he was disqualified, he'd last only 21 minutes before he headed for the showers. The rebounding and aggression are good, but James may have to temper them a bit to get the playing time he wants.
- He's re-made himself: Last year Farr occasionally looked a bit husky when on the court. Part of the reason that he didn't play much seemed to be an inability to impose himself at all defensively. Frankly, he just didn't seem ready either physically or mentally for the challenges of the college game. This year is an entirely different story. For one thing, Farr now looks long and lean in his uniform. Maybe the cut is just more flattering, but it's much more likely that he spent the time getting his body ready to play the game. Secondly, Farr now looks mentally checked in and ready when he gets into the game.
Few things speak to this point more than a three pointer Farr took, and made, with 10:14 to play last night. After catching the ball on the left wing, Farr took a jab step and faked a shot. His man reacted by showing that he was going to get in position to rebound if Farr took the shot. Without dribbling, hesitating, or looking indecisive, Farr reset himself and let fly. Making a shot like that without moving after already faking takes a good deal of mental discipline.
James Farr may not continue to average 8.3/5.8/0 and shoot 67% from the floor. As Xavier's schedule toughens, he's almost guaranteed to see his incredible rebounding rates drop. That said, Farr has clearly come back to this team ready to fight for time and do what he can to get on the court. His ability to grab the ball off the rim and shoot it from the outside add a great deal of depth to a team that looks loaded with contributing talent.