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2013 Player Preview: Semaj Christon

The lynchpin of Xavier's backcourt from a year ago returns to lead the charge again this season. How much Semagic should Xavier fans be expecting?

Semaj with the ball in his (right) hand.
Semaj with the ball in his (right) hand.

When Semaj Christon first stepped onto the court for Xavier, it was on the heels of a summer of tumult that saw the program lose three starters to graduation and then two more to various other issues. Actually, it was on the heels of a massive waxing of Fairleigh-Dickinson, but that's beside the larger point. Semaj was not only a heart-warming story of a local boy making good, he was also billed as being talented enough to help the team avoid the massive slide you would anticipate following the loss of 100% of your starting lineup.

On the whole, Christon did pretty much everything you could ask of a freshman guard with little veteran help on the roster. He went for 15.2/2.9/4.6 with 1.5 steals on .444/.250/.672 shooting while playing 82.2% of the team's minutes and ranking 40th in the nation with a usage rate of 30.2%. His advanced stats were just as flashy, as he put up an assist rate of 32.2%, a steal rate of 2.8%, and drew 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes of play. Rounding out the whole package was how impressive Christon was on the floor. He has good height for a guard, but his speed is his biggest asset. He has the ability to find another gear in transition and get off the mark quickly in the half court. A slasher by nature, his game featured all manner of creative finishes in and around the lane. When he got going last season, he was hard to stop.

Of course, Semaj also had flaws in his game. The most obvious of these was an over-reliance on his right hand; even going to his left on the drive, he almost always finished with the right. His effectiveness also waned quickly the further he got from the basket; while he was relentless in his pursuit of the rim, his mid-range game was spotty and it took him 460 minutes of playing time to pick up his second made three-point basket. Free throw shooting was also a concern for most of the year, though his 24-29 from the stripe to end the year brought his season's number to a respectable level. Durability should also be mentioned, as Semaj had intermittent trouble with cramping throughout the season.

Best case scenario: Semaj comes back having taken thousands of jumpers and worked on his left tirelessly all summer. Even against the level of competition he'll see in the Big East, a player with Christon's physical skills who also makes you respect his jumper and can go to the rim with either hand is a next-level weapon. Semaj roars through the season, ticking off those basketball dream boxes (early season tournament at an exotic location, big games at MSG, NCAA tournament run) along the way. #SEMAGIC trends late into March before Christon declares for the NBA after his second and final year at X.

Worst case scenario: Barring catastrophic injury, Semaj is good enough to get by on natural talent. Unfortunately, he realizes that. The same tricks that worked in the A-10 aren't quite as effective in the Big East, and Christon sees a dip in his production. Frustrated, he forces more on offense, which only exacerbates the problem. Semaj is too good to have a truly bad season, but good scouting and tough opponents keep him from putting the team on his back. After going for something like 13/2.5/4.5, he has to do some self-examination before his junior season.

Most likely scenario: There has been absolutely no evidence that Christon's work ethic is questionable. Asking a born slasher to become a dead-eye shooter in the span of an offseason is a little much, but I suspect Christon will come back with a jumper that demands a little more respect and an increased success rate from the free-throw line. The combination of his skills and the increased exposure from being in the Big East make it seem probable at this point that we could be watching his last season at Xavier. Put me down for something on the order of 18/3.5/6 with a free throw percentage over 75% from him.