clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who Will Play the Five?

We need some size off the bench.
With Xavier bringing in a fresh crop of athletic 3/4 types, the question has started spring up across the internet: who will play the five? It's clear that Big Kenny - perhaps unlike Tu in this regard - is not capable of playing all 40 minutes of every game. Even if he were, that's probably not in his best interests going forward, and completely destroying the big man by mid-January probably isn't in the best interests of the program. Xavier has 7'5" behemoth Sim Bhullar coming in 2012-2013, but he's probably not going to be ready for more minutes as a freshman than Big Kenny is right now, so the question seems to be one of some permanence. We'll outline the options below.

Travis Taylor: 6'7", 214 pounds
Taylor is probably the closest thing Xavier will have on the roster to a traditional inside big man. He has five career three-point attempts, and he's missed them all. Mostly, he hangs around the rim, grabs boards, and has obvious athleticism. It's not ridiculous to hope that Taylor fills the shoes of the recently departed Jamel McLean. He is, however, two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than Jamel. That's a very real size limitation that is probably going to limit his ability to play the five as effectively as McLean.



Jeff Robinson: 6'9", 219 pounds
Robinson is a complete enigma. He has the physical gifts to make a huge difference in a basketball game - just ask LaSalle - but he seems almost content to languidly drift around the periphery of most contests. Aside from his mental makeup, Robinson suffers from a serious case of being really skinny. With his slender build and leaping ability, he's better suited to come across the lane for help defense than having to defend a banger on the post. His offensive post skills are also a meaningful question mark, and he would have trouble getting the deep position that Kenny's bulk affords him.

Griffin McKenzie: 6'9", 220 pounds
I don't have a current picture of McKenzie in file.
McKenzie weighs one more pound than Robinson, isn't nearly as athletic, and played extremely sparingly as a freshman. Furthermore, even those who advocate for McKenzie's inclusion in the regular Xavier rotation don't do it on the basis of his ability to get inside and bang. The one thing that makes Griffin more projectable going forward is the fact that he lost his summer last year. Word is that he got crushed on a regular basis by shorter high school big men during his time at that level, but there is that inkling of somewhat unreasonable hope that a healthy summer under the tutelage of Xavier's staff turns McKenzie into a viable option at the five. I'm not counting on it.

UPDATE: Griff reports that he's now 230. So am I. He's probably considerably more fit.

UPDATE II: The previously posted picture was apparently from Griff's freshman year. He's considerably more intimidating now. It's also possible that he consumes his enemies with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse.

Jalen Reynolds: 6'9" 210 pounds
Reynolds will be a freshman next year and is - almost impossibly - a lighter build than Jeff Robinson. Coach Mack has mentioned on occasion that freshmen only learn one position at X, and it's likely that Reynolds would be slotted as a four, not a five. Beyond that, all the obvious limitations that Robinson has defensively also apply to Reynolds. Reynolds has shown a decent post-up game (though there would be some question of his ability to get and hold post position against, say, Michael Eric) as well as a jumper out to 12 feet or so. Probably unlikely to see time as a back-up center though.

Nobody:
This may end up being the direction in which the team evolves. When Kenny is off the court, a proliferation of guards and wings opens up an interesting set of options for the staff. A G-G-F-F-F or G-G-G-F-F lineup wouldn't be out of the question, especially if Kenny's breathers were timed to coincide with those of the opponent's banger(s). Much has been made of Dez Wells' readiness to contribute from day one, and Justin Martin's availability coupled with Brad Redford's return gives Xavier something on the order of five guys who can play the 1-3 positions before you even consider what Darwin Davis may be capable of as a freshman. Some combination of that group coupled with two of Taylor, Robinson, Reynolds, and McKenzie gives Xavier a change-of-pace lineup that doesn't lose much with Kenny catching a breather.

What's this guy's eligibility situation?
Xavier's offense is suited to such a lineup. Watching a game, take note of how much time Big Kenny spends setting screens 20 feet from the bucket. Now imagine if he were a viable threat to catch the ball off that screen and knock down a 15-footer or put it on the floor and really rush the bucket. When Frease catches the ball near the basket to go to work, it's almost always out of a set run to get him that touch in that position. I think Coach Mack and the staff have intentionally stocked the roster with players who are big enough to be reputable in the paint while still having that threat on the top of the key pick play. With the right players in place, I think nobody is as likely as anybody to be the backup center.