At around midnight last night, Joel called me on his way home from his new home renovation to tell me about his meeting with the local constabulary. (Have brothers; never run out of stories). As our conversations often do, this one drifted to Xavier basketball. More specifically, it drifted to JP Macura.
Basketball players tend to get lumped into categories based on stereotypes that aren't always be accurate. If you were picking teams at the local Y, you'd probably grab Macura once you felt you had a ballhandler, a big, and that dude who is always trying to score. In short, you'd expect JP to linger on the outside and splash threes when the ball got kicked to him. Maybe something a little like this:
Yes, that is a stepback, but it fits in line with what JP Macura looks like he "should" be. Outside the arc drilling shots, not really mixing it up down low and basically just letting the game come to him until he can shoot. By now contextual clues should have let you know that isn't what JP Macura is at all. Instead, he is (at least so far) a player like nothing Xavier has ever seen before. So who is JP Macura?
1. JP Macura is Jordan Crawford.
Take a moment to read that brief sentence again in the knowledge that it is figuratively true. Not since Jordan Crawford has Xavier had a player shoot the ball as frequently as Macura does. Since Ken Pomeroy started keeping tempo adjusted statistics, only Crawford and Macura have taken more than 30% of their team's shots while on the floor. In a stat that strains credulity, both shot exactly 46.2% from the floor, with Macura having the edge inside the arc 56% to 50.1%. And they both wear #55.
2. JP Macura is Justin Martin.
I don't mean prone to vanishing completely. Thus far, Macura's field goal attempts are split nearly perfectly evenly between three pointers and attempts from two point range. Last year, Martin's split was 52/48 with the current Mustang slightly favoring the two point attempt where Macura slightly favors the three. It probably doesn't need to be explained why being a threat to score from either deep or off the drive makes you very difficult to guard.
3. JP Macura is BJ Raymond.
BJ is one of my all time favorite Musketeers for his fearlessness in shooting the ball and the swagger he brought to the team. Where he and Macura are similar is in that fearlessness, and also in rebounding. Again, part of what makes the start of Macura's career at Xavier so unusual is that it borrows from places you wouldn't expect. At 6-6 and 226, Raymond had shoulders that resembled small cantaloupes. At 6-5 and 190, Macura has shoulders that, thanks to college style lifting, are starting to resemble shoulders. Despite that obvious difference, their rebound rate stats are eerily similar at 5.6%/10.4% offensive and defensive for Macura, and 5%/10.5% for Raymond.
4. JP Macura is Briante Weber.
If that name doesn't jump out at you, HAVOC as an idea should. Briante Weber is the point man for Shaka Smart's all or nothing press, and last year he posted an astronomical 6.8% steal rate to lead the nation. This year Macura has posted a 6.3% steal rate. Weber does a lot of his work on the ball, but both he and Macura seem to have the knack for jumping into a passing lane and coming up with the ball.
5. JP Macura is Justin Cage.
Disparate skills, disparate weaknesses. Justin Cage was an excellent player for Xavier, but no one is ever going to remember him for his ball distribution. In much the same way, Macura is off to a rather rough start when it comes to identifying exactly where the ball should be going. His assist rate of 9% to go with a turnover rate of 23.3% are more reminiscent of Xavier's power forward during the first Elite Eight run than those of a shooting guard.
All of that to say this: if you look at JP Macura and see a tall, slender, white guy and immediately think he's nothing but an outside shooter waiting for his chance to lift, you've missed a lot. Macura is equal parts one of the most notorious gunners in Xavier's history and a ball hawking defender. Not content to fall into any one category, Macura is fearless outside shooter who is also willing to take the ball inside to get some work done. What he'll end up being isn't at all clear yet, but he's well on his way to being unique.