Earlier today I wrote an article about whether Larry Austin Jr. is ready to make the jump to being Xavier's next floor general. While it's difficult to make any assessment from 111 minutes, LAJ's numbers don't look great. One commenter raised other very good questions about Larry though, so I'll try to answer those here.
1. Did Xavier's initial depth hurt LAJ's development?
In the six games from 11/24 through 12/9, Xavier played six games and Larry garnered a grand total of 17 minutes in three appearances. In that same time, Edmond Sumner played in all six games and accrued 40 minutes. It wasn't hard to see in that time which guard Coach Mack thought could offer more to the team. In that same time, the grand recruiting mistake that was Brandon Randolph got 59 minutes. If Austin Jr. had gotten just half of those 99 minutes, his season line would be a bit more in line with that of a backup guard. That also ignores the rest of the 165 minutes Randolph played. Give Larry 80 of those as well and suddenly he's played 241 minutes for the year. With just that very basic number crunching it's easy to see where LAJ was hurt by the depth.
Of course, that ignores the larger program issues in play. Coach Mack was right in seeing a star in Edmond Sumner, but the kid's knees let go. It was also imperative that the coaching staff find out for sure what they had in Brandon Randolph once and for all. Yes, that time could have gone to Larry, but it needed to be spent elsewhere.
2. Did Big East play serve to stunt growth?
Actually, it seems the exact opposite was true. Larry got 20 minutes in the game Coach Mack threw away at Villanova, and played games of 14, 11, and eight minutes later in Big East play. That's 53 of the 111 minutes in just four conference games. Only 32 of Larry's minutes came in non-conference play, and 12 of those were in the season opening rout of Northern Arizona. One of the most encouraging things about the way Austin Jr. played was that he never seemed scared on the bigger stages, preferring to make mistakes of aggression rather than mistakes of fear. The Big East may actually prove to be the making of Larry Austin.
It's not easy to make judgments based on just 111 minutes, but that's exactly what Coach Mack and his staff will be doing (and we did at the end of year) as the Musketeers take the floor this year. Larry may have been hurt by the depth at the start of the season last year, but Big East play served to give him a chance to demonstrate that he isn't afraid to play in the big games. It's hard not to root for a guy who plays with such obvious joy, so here's to hoping Larry Austin Jr. gets another chance at it this year.