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Tu Holloway, Transfers, and Outliers

David West was no stranger to hard work
ESPN the Magazine's most recent issue focused primarily on the upcoming NFL draft (apparently it's soon). While most of the information presented there was of little to no interest in Xavier-related terms, there was one article that got me to thinking a little bit about the Muskies. The article was about how players are assessed for the NFL Draft and how that process continues to evolve.

The crux of the issue is that the testing at the combine - everything from the 40-yard (or is it meter?) sprint to the famed Wonderlic evaluation - focuses on measuring the player's peak performance when properly motivated. While this kind of assessment has value, the players' performance in a one-time assessment with a high level of motivation does not always translate to an accurate measure of their career. The margin of talent between the top guy in the league and the worst one is so thin that the ability to persist in improving himself over a long course of time when motivation is low is often the secret to success.

This all brings me back around to Xavier, kind of. Malcolm Gladwell famously advanced the theory that 10,000 hours of focused practice are required to become an expert at a skill. A player who recognizes and acts on that fact obviously has a better chance of becoming a successful cog in the Xavier machine than one who thinks he can just show up on game day and dominate like he did in high school. This, in turn, brings me back to the crisis du jour among the Xavier faithful.

Broadly, it relates to the construction of the team. In a more focused nature, the primary part of it is, "What does it say about the program that D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Michael Chandler decommitted and Jay Canty and Jordan Latham transferred out?" The short answer is that it might well mean nothing. Recruiting, like the NFL draft, is basically a crap shoot of trying to get the best of a group of similarly talented players. Circumstantial cases can be made that Latham and Chandler did not have the requisite drive to do what it takes to succeed at this level. Latham tweeted at the end of Xavier's forty-minute tournament run that what he saw there opened his eyes to the fact that he was going to have to work to be successful. Chandler has decommitted from two NCAA programs and left his high school; not marks of a guy who has the make up to grind his way through a second workout on the day in the middle of July.

DSR
Beyond that, Canty is also gone and Smith-Rivera's recruitment is still very open, though he has said that XU has a leg up. While landing a big name like DSR would look great on paper for Xavier, we as fans really don't know if he would push our program to the next level. I really don't know anything the young man's internal composition. What I do know is that he is a highly talented and highly touted ball player. Tu Holloway, on the other hand, was a three-star rated recruit whose noted off-season work ethic has forged him into a dynamic force for the Muskies.

The bottom line is that it's difficult to tell how a player is going to impact the team until he is actually doing it. A guy who looks all-world against high school players made come to the next level and fizzle. A player didn't draw a lot of raves in his local high school athletic association or the AAU tour might pound away until he's national player of the year. The coaches and other people close to the program are charged with figuring out which is which. The fans should absolutely follow and obsess over the process, but we also need to remember that assess who is going to adapt to the next level is a largely unscientific process.