What if I told you that Xavier had just recruited a 6-10, 250 pound swing four? What if I told you he was a lock to shoot .537/.500/.337 on a not at all insignificant number of attempts? That he'd average 5.3 rebounds even if he only played 15 minutes per game. That all sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Now, what if I told you that player is already on Xavier's roster?
As you almost undoubtedly guess by now, the player in question is James Farr. Big Game James has had a somewhat turbulent career at Xavier, beginning with a freshman year that was wasted by Chris Mack. The 42 minutes that Mack burned so that James could chuck up 18 garbage time shots will now deprive the team of another year of the big man. In James' sophomore year he shot .516/.550/.380 from the floor and went for 4.6/3.9/.2 in just 12 minutes of playing time. That seemed to leave Farr poised for a breakout, but last year wasn't exactly that.
That's not to say that last year was a bad one for James, just that it wasn't what Xavier fans were probably looking for. For starters, his .427/.469/.289 shooting line was down across the board. Even if you break out just his two point attempts (.611 in 2013-14, .486 in 2014-15), Farr was worse. That, combined with some incredibly lackluster man to man defense, made it appear as though James Farr took a significant step backward last year.
There are reasons that advanced analytics are making there way to basketball though, and part of the reason is to help quantify players like James Farr. First off, don't take this as saying Farr was good last year. All too often, he wasn't. Still, there are some very good reasons to think he'll be a force in the coming season.
1. The shooting will come back:
James was recruited as a big with range, and he showed why in his sophomore season. That year he knocked down 38% from behind the arc with his slightly unorthodox delivery. Last year, that plunged to 29%. First off, the sample size slightly skews these numbers. James just doesn't shoot quite enough for regression to really take effect. Secondly, an odd thing happened last year, when Farr started shooting from areas where he didn't have success.
In 2013-14, Farr knocked down 43% of his right wing threes and took 17% of his shots from there. Last season, he took far more shots from the left baseline, where he only shot 25%. Further, Farr quit shooting from the wings off the break. In 13-14, 29% of his shots came in that situation, last year it was only 18%. In short, a lot of James' issues can be traced directly to the type of shot he is taking. There's no reason to think he can't regain his inside touch, so a shooting comeback should be on the cards.
2. He's an elite rebounder:
The word elite gets tossed around to the point that it has lost some meaning, but it truly fits here. Had Farr played enough minutes to qualify, his defensive rebounding rate would have been fifth in the nation. With the same caveat, his offensive rebounding rate would have been in the top 150. That adds up to being a monster on the glass. The 5.3 rebounds per game don't tell the whole story, as they come in just 15 minutes of playing time. With sufficient time, which he'll see this year, Farr's total rebounds will spike.
3. The fouls are trending down:
The good news is that if Farr had played an entire game last year, he may not have fouled out! The bad news is, he'd have been really close each time. In James' sophomore year he committed 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes. Last year that number fell to 4.4 fouls per 40. Coach Mack found out that having Farr anchor a hybrid 1-3-1 down low kept him away from players putting the ball on the floor and therefore away from the fouls he was prone to. That also freed James up to attack shots, and he blocked 5.9% of opponent's attempts when he was on the floor. Just challenging shots, Farr doesn't foul as much.
Xavier has added talent this year, but their biggest addition could be a James Farr who fits the pieces of his game together. If the shot selection of old combines with the rebounding tenacity of last year, the Musketeers have an excellent player down on the blocks.