Those of you who follow baseball know that the trade deadline passed Sunday at 4pm, leaving in its wake a flurry of overturned rosters. Whether you're like me and pull for the Tribe (we got Ubaldo!) or are like most Xavier fans and pull for the Reds (nice work on that Gomes trade, or whatever), the end of July is about the time you know for sure what your team's final roster is going to look like.
That time frame, interestingly enough, also fits for college basketball. Other than the occasional eligibility issue that runs through September (think of it as the trading period where guys have to clear waivers, if you're committed to the analogy), a fan can generally know who is going to be suiting up for the season by the beginning of August. With that in mind, let's take a moment to get familiar with what Xavier lost since they last took the floor, as well as the new faces you'll see (or hear Byron and Joe describe) this season.
Dante Jackson, G/F
It needs to be stated to begin with that we're unabashed supporters of Dante Jackson. Whether it's the tearful farewell we bid him (linked above), keeping track of when his hometown chooses to celebrate his holiday, or just the general Twitter back and forth with him, he's been a big part of what we do here. With that said, Dante was a fairly limited offensive player. He was a reliable outside shooter, but his role last year didn't stretch much beyond that. Defensively, Dante could be counted on to go after the other team's top perimeter player and make his life miserable; he was also the emotional center of the team. It's going to be that last role in which Dante will be missed the most.
Jamel McLean, F
McLean was the dirty-work banger to Dante's perimeter-oriented Swiss Army knife. In as much as Dante was asked to do a little bit of everything that kept him at least 15' from the bucket, Jamel's responsibilities kept him within that range. He was rarely the primary option on the post, but he could do just enough with his back to the basket. His primary utility was on the boards, especially on the offensive end. His combination of tenacity, athletic ability, and physical strength allowed him to leave his mark as one of the best offensive rebounders to come through Xavier in recent years.
Andrew Taylor, F
Taylor's career at Xavier never took off, as he was plagued by injuries after his transfer from Division II Hillsdale College. Despite an up-and-down ride in terms of production and playing time, Taylor always worked hard in practice and said the right things on the occasions that he was approached by the media. His banner moment as a Muskie came in last year's NCCA game against Marquette. With X up against the wall, the man affectionately dubbed "Grandpa" by his teammates answered the bell and posted 16 and 4 in a losing effort as the coda to his college career. It wasn't enough to get the win, but it wasn't nothing, either.
The Three-Headed Monster, G/F
The Monster consisted of forward Joe Hughes and guards Kevin Feeney and Johnny Mazza. While not exactly a conquering hurricane on the floor, the three were worth their share of moments and rose to stardom on Redford's Rundown. While these guys didn't often directly factor into a game's result, they did provide practice depth for the Muskies and generally fill the role of the walk-on to a T. They'll be missed by knowledgeable Muskie fans.
Jay Canty, G and Jordan Latham, F
These two get grouped together because they both voluntarily departed the program as transfers. Speculation as to the chain of events that may lead to such an event is can get salacious in a hurry, but it should suffice to say that Latham never seemed quite as at ease with Xavier as one might have hoped. Jay Canty looked to be a viable piece of the puzzle, but injuries set him back just when the team needed him most. This is more bad luck than anything, but it may have hastened Canty's departure. While both guys are wished luck wherever they land, their impact on the team last season was minimal. Ultimately, their greatest impact on the program may well be the free scholarships they left behind.
Overall, X lost two serviceable starters who served as the glue guys for their respective areas of the floor but left no gaping talent holes on the floor. Andrew Taylor was the next biggest departure, but his basketball abilities were always a little hampered by some bad injury luck. Finally, few games swung on the Three-Headed Monster's contribution, and perhaps even fewer on those of Canty and Latham. I guess one upside of being the nation's least deep team is not having too much to replace between seasons.
Travis Taylor, F
"Takeoff Trav" will step into the squad after sitting out his transfer year and immediately assume the mantle of "guy with the coolest alliterative nickname." Taylor is a slighty undersized (6'8", 200 when he left Monmouth) forward, but that didn't stop him from dropping 17.8/7.6 as a sophomore at Monmouth. Even more encouraging than his stats from nigh two years ago are the reports coming out of X that he has added almost 20 pounds of muscle since first arriving on campus. On a team with a bunch of skinny dudes surrounding Big Kenny inside, that's an encouraging sign. Coach Mack has been pleased with his development, and also notes that Taylor has the quickest second jump of any player Mack has coached. A year under his belt to learn the system and integrate into the team should also serve Taylor well.
Justin Martin, G/F
Speaking of players who have had a year to learn the system, Justin Martin had a season to spend as he saw fit after being declared a partial qualifier last August. Martin is listed at 6'7", 202, but plays as a big 2/3 rather than a small 3/4. While his calling card is his immense range as a shooter, Martin's game seems to be well-rounded if reports coming out of last year's practices are correct. He was described on several occasions as the second-best player in practice, which is positive news for Muskies fans this year. Coach Mack also speaks highly of Martin's basketball IQ and his ability to move the ball in transition.
Dez Wells, G/F
Few players have ever come into Xavier with the buzz that Dez Wells brings with him onto campus. Primarily a two guard, Wells also has the ability to play as a small three or even at the one in a pinch. Wells has been consistently ranked in top 50 of his class and - at 6'5", 220 - brings a college-ready body to the floor. While he has some work to do in regards to increasing the range on his jump shot, he has enough shooting ability to make the defender play him honestly. He's also a tenacious defender, if reports are to be believed, but his calling card is his sensational finishing ability at and above the rim with either hand.
Darwin Davis, G
Unlike Wells, Davis still needs to add muscle to his 5'10", 160-pound frame. Despite that, Davis comes out of high school with the reputation as a point guard with the ability to lead a team. He also has the quickness to get to the bucket and finish, though he is understandably less adept at playing through contact than Wells. His shooting stroke from deep is inconsistent, which allows opponents to give him a step off the dribble. His passing vision and ball-handling are college ready, though, and he should benefit from a year to learn from Tu and Cheek(z).
It should also be noted that Xavier signed F Jalen Reynolds, but some trouble with his transcripts has sent him to prep school for a year. As I understand it, his commitment to X is still valid, but he has the option to re-open his recruitment. Brad is more adept at navigating the ins and outs of the NCAA rule book than I am though, so I'll ask him to clarify Reynolds' status in the comments. The Muskies will also be getting Brad Redford back from injury, which should go a long way toward shoring up the perimeter shooting that allowed teams to zone Xavier out of games at points last year.