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The Chris Mack recruiting map: Near misses

During the Mack era, Xavier has had four players commit verbally before seeking their basketball destiny elsewhere. It's a mixed bag, to say the least.

This one hurts a little bit.
This one hurts a little bit.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We spent just over a week looking at the recruiting work of Coach Mack, focusing particularly on the sundry forays of he and his staff to bring in players from both near and far. While Xavier has offered about every able-bodied male between the ages of 12 and 18 who possesses a transcript and a pair of gym shoes, the Muskies made it to the altar with four player who then backed off from the verbal commitment stage. Their stories are below.

Center Michael Chandler of the class of 2011 was the first of these. A top 5 player at his position out of Indianapolis's Lawrence North, he had decommitted from Louisville before he verbally committed to Xavier. He then backed off that commitment to commit to Central Florida, where he blossomed into a star. Just kidding, he also decommitted from there to attend Northwest Florida State before getting his first taste of D1 action this past season at Oregon. He averaged 2.2 and 1.9 in 19 games for the Ducks before - brace yourselves - asking for and receiving his release from the squad. Wherever he lands next will be the sixth school to have been pledged his services but just the third to actually receive them.

I had been excited about Chandler when he committed to Xavier. Between having been committed to Louisville and being highly-rated by just about every scouting service, his pedigree seemed to be that of Xavier's next great center. Instead, his peripatetic journey through college basketball featured Xavier only as a footnote, and he has struggled to make good on the promise of his skill set. It's hard to say that this was too big of a miss for Mack and the staff, but maybe things would have worked out differently had Chandler found a place to set his roots early on.

Coach Mack was apparently still enamored with the idea of having a big man in the middle, because the next year he went even bigger in grabbing a commitment from 7'4", 330-pound man mountain Sim Bhullar out of Canada. Bhullar committed to Xavier in the early period of 2011, but by late that summer he had backed out and was headed to New Mexico State. Transcript problems ended up being revealed as the issue, and Bhullar was ineligible to compete his first year in the NCAA. Bhullar ended up carving out a solid couple of years at New Mexico State, averaging about 10/7/1 for his career before heading the NBA draft.

This one is also hardly a referendum on Mack's recruiting ability. The kid wasn't eligible, and no (legal) sales job from Mack was going to make up for the $40k price tag at X while Bhullar sat out a year. Plus If you have a 7'4" guy in the middle (as the old adage goes), you kind of have to structure your whole offense around him. As we saw with Georgetown's Joshua Smith, sometimes bigger isn't always better in the Big East.

Speaking of better and the Big East, did you know all-league guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera was once committed to Xavier? Of course you did, but it's still fun to be reminded! He verbally committed to Xavier in 2010 before reopening his recruiting because he felt like he had rushed the decision. A number of larger schools were delighted to hear that from the Indianapolis native. Citing (ironically enough) the desire to play in the Big East, Smith-Rivera eventually signed with Georgetown. You know the rest of his story; he's been quite good.

This one stings. Not just losing a player because of the desire to play in a league we were about to join; I get that that wasn't Mack's fault. Being able to hold onto good players despite flirtations from other programs is absolutely a big part of recruiting though, and losing one to Georgetown stings even outside of the fact that they're now a conference opponent. In a world not too much different from our own, DSR and Dez Wells would have been teammates.

Finally there is the tale of Chris Thomas. A 6'5" five-star shooting guard out of Denver, he attended four high schools without getting a degree before getting a GED and enrolling at Chipola (FL) Junior College (where he missed the postseason due the little hang up of being in jail). After a year there, he committed to Xavier. He backed off of that to head to Manhattan instead, but he was dismissed from that program before playing a game for repeated run-ins with the law. He landed at Marshall, where he played 33 games in one season before being dismissed for a violation of team rules. He is now at Texas Southern, where he averaged 12.6 PPG as a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer. He somehow still has a year of eligibility left.

Four high schools, left without a degree. Five colleges, has managed just two years of D1 ball. Thomas has (or had) a world of talent, but the juice isn't worth the squeeze. It's probably telling of where Xavier has been as opposed to where it is now that they attempted to take a chance on Thomas. The fact that he decided to decommit was probably a blessing for Xavier, as he has proven to be a headache at just about every stop since early in his high school career.