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Player Preview: Isaiah Philmore

Isaiah Philmore struggled out of the gate before having a great second half. Can Xavier count on the big man to continue the high intensity rebounding efforts that made him so valuable?

As the season ended, Isaiah Philmore began to rise above the competition.
As the season ended, Isaiah Philmore began to rise above the competition.

Isaiah Philmore came to Xavier with a reputation as a big who liked to step outside and create his own shot. After two years at Towson, where he was a cut above the competition, Philmore figured to give Xavier something of their very own pick and pop four. Capable of grabbing a rebound and making a three, Philmore was the kind of post Xavier didn't have.

Come January, Isaiah Philmore from Towson was still the kind of post that Xavier didn't have. Promising games against weak Drake and Vanderbilt teams went by the wayside as Philmore hit a skid that culminated with 0 points in 20 minutes in a January 26th loss to St. Joseph's. In that span Philmore shot 38% from the floor, didn't make a three pointer, and generally failed to impact games very much at all. After that disastrous game, Isaiah scored in double figures in seven out of 12 and shot over 50% from the floor. As the season ended, Philmore was a key cog in the Xavier machine, starting the last five games and consistently posting offensive ratings over 100.

Of course, Philmore may very well be most remembered for the potentially game winning shot he left just short in the Atlantic 10 tournament. In that game Philmore's flaws were on display as he managed 5/6/0 on 2-6/0-0/1-2 shooting. For Philmore to be effective, he has to make shots (obviously), and crash the boards. Philmore was excellent on the offensive glass, leading the team with an 11.4% OR rate. Unfortunately, he was less effective on the defensive glass, grabbing only 13.3% of potential boards, behind such stalwarts as Landen Amos and Jeff Robinson.

Best Case Scenario: Philmore can be a monster on the glass, and he's relentless on the offensive boards especially. In a regular season ending loss to Bulter, he went for 16/11/0 and had three offensive rebounds. That's not reasonable to expect every game, but it shows that Philmore can do it. With a season of experience at a higher level under his belt and the confidence that comes from closing like he did, Philmore could start hot. Add in the offensive help that Matt Stainbrook should provide, and you get a recipe for Philmore lurking like the best blindside monster since Buster Bluth. With guards shooting and Stainbrook eating space, Philmore rakes in 9/8/1.

Worst Case Scenario: Jalen Reynolds is an athletic freak, Kamall Richards needs time, Matt Stainbrook is in the best shape of his life, and James Farr might be ready coming off of a season he really should have redshirted. All of this adds up to a drastic cut in playing time for our favorite Towson transfer. With time dwindling, Philmore resorts to the drastic measure of moving out from the bucket and jacking threes. That goes as well as it did last year, 15.4%, and time keeps slipping away. By mid-season, Philmore is once again out of the starting lineup, only this year there is no easy way back.

Most Likely Scenario: Call me crazy, but I think the best case scenario and most likely scenario don't diverge all that greatly. Philmore was tenacious last year once he settled in, and that kind of effort from someone with his size never fails to be devastating. There is far more talent on this year's team, but Isaiah is an established force that feeds off other people's misses. If the guards keep shooting (and they will) Philmore will keep being there to grab the ball. Every team needs a guy who keeps plays alive and chips in just a bit when other people stall. Philmore is that guy for the 2013-14 Musketeers.