What if I told you that Xavier was returning a player who shot 33% from behind the arc, crushed the defensive glass at an 18.3% rate, posted an offensive rating of 108 as a freshman, was fourth on the team in both steals and blocks percentage, could guard all four positions, and stood 6-8 just to top it off? You could be forgiven for wondering why you hadn’t heard more about that guy and it’s probably only because of the post play of James Farr and Jalen Reynolds that Kaiser Gates didn’t become more of a household name last year. Gates line of 3.2/2.6/.2 on 43% shooting isn’t superficially impressive, but there’s a good deal more there to unpack.
Gates didn’t shrink when the stage got bigger. Indeed, he seemed to grow with it. In Big East play Kaiser played more minutes than he had in the non-conference schedule and produced at the same level against Villanova and the like as he had against Wright State and Dayton. The frantic, eager puppy style of defense he displayed early in the season slowly disappeared into a 6-8 menace in the lanes and on weak side help. In fact, Gates managed only one block and three steals in the non-conference schedule before jumping those number dramatically in conference. Kaiser also played 16 double digit minute games after conference play opened, only three before. In short, he grew into the season.
Best case scenario:
It’s tempting to get really crazy here. In conference play Gates shot 61% inside the arc and 38.5% from deep. He hammers the glass on defense and has had an offseason to add muscle for post play on offense. Is the 11/8/0 in 15 minutes against Creighton fair to expect? Probably not, but there is no reason to think that far more games like that will occur on a regular basis. If Myles Davis is indeed done, look for Kaiser to get more matchups against threes not capable of dealing with his size and athleticism.
Worst case scenario:
Last season again. Development isn’t a guarantee, you only have to look to LAJ and Brandon Randolph to see that recently. Kaiser was useful last year, but only had three double digit scoring games and shot a woeful 56.8% from the line. His man up defense was less than stellar time as well. If he didn’t rededicate himself or was content to coast on his natural talent, he’ll play ten minutes per game again.
Most likely scenario:
I don’t foresee a lack of development stalling Kaiser Gates. For one, he improved markedly as last year went on. Secondly, Coach Mack knows that he is going to need the sophomore a lot on a thin team this year. Expect 20 minutes per contest and a concomitant increase in numbers. Kaiser Gates could be well on his way to becoming a household name.