There was a point in time in late 2014 when it looked like James Farr was going to ever recover his offensive game. Coming off a sophomore season in which he'd made himself into an outside shooter, Farr wasn't knocking down shots and that was clearly affecting his confidence on the floor. Almost unnoticed at the time, though, was the fact that Farr was turning himself into an absolute monster in the middle of the floor. From a freshman season spent mostly at sea to a senior season in which he made a legitimate argument for himself for team MVP, Big Game James has completed one of the most incredible turnarounds in Xavier program history.
If you're a slow reader or if a boss interrupts you you with some absurd suggestion that you actually work, reading this article may take you as many minutes as James played in his freshman year. Recruited as a pick and pop four, Farr landed on a team that wasn't going anywhere and ended up playing fewer minutes than Landen Amos. At the end of that year, it was hard to see exactly what the future was bringing for Farr. He didn't appear to be part of Coach Mack's plans and Jalen Reynolds was arriving the next year.
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James Farr is the best rebounder in college basketball, and it's not even close
James Farr arrived on campus as a 6'10" player who wanted nothing more than to be a shooting threat from beyond the arc. Three and a half years of hard work later, he's the most dominant rebounder we've seen in a long time.
The best in James Farr
James' sophomore year was a revelation. The big man played 30% of the available minutes, had an offensive rating of 116.7, and shot 38% from behind the arc. James also started grabbing rebounds like a man possessed. In just 12 minutes of play he slashed 4.6/3.9/.2. In addition to looking like the floor stretching shooter he was supposed to be, Farr suddenly looked like someone who could take over a game inside for brief stretches of time.
That brings us to Big Game James in his junior season, which started with things going south. On Dec 21st of 2014, we got to the point that we ran an article wondering whether Farr was ever going to find his game again. James scored double digits exactly once all year after doing it seven times in fewer minutes the year before. James also lost 10% off his outside shooting and never really looked in a rhythm from deep. As the shooting went though, Farr moved closer to the hoop and became a revelation.
In that junior year, Farr posted a defensive rebounding rate of 30% and an offensive rebounding rate of 11%. That DR% would have been in the top 10 in the nation had he qualified, and the OR% would have landed him solidly in the top 100. When Big Game James moved closer to the hoop, he became incredibly effective, also swatting 5.9% of opponent's shots as a bonus. That all set the stage for the senior season that saw James became a Xavier stalwart.
It was Jalen Reynolds who garnered the preseason publicity, but it was James Farr who was the starter from the off. Against Missouri, James went for 15 and 14. Against NKU he looked like the only player engaged and went for 12 and 9. Against Michigan in a huge road win he grabbed 13 rebounds, Auburn saw him go for 12 and 11. In conference play he torched Marquette in a massive game for 16 and 19, in a win over Seton Hall at the Cintas he destroyed the Pirates to the tune of 24/15/4 with three blocks and two steals. That would prove to be his virtuoso performance in a Xavier jersey and, given what Seton Hall went on to do, possibly the game of the season by any Musketeer. James capped his career by scoring in double figures in seven of his last eight games.
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The final score flatters Marquette as Xavier ran the show from start to finish.
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Those are the numbers, but they don't really tell the story of James Farr. A guy who saw nearly no time as a freshman, became a shooter as a sophomore, and then struggled to find himself early in his junior year ended up becoming a dominant big man. You don't earn the sobriquet Big Game James by not showing up when your team needs you. James jarred a three in a tight Crosstown Shootout his sophomore year. With Xavier desperate for wins last year he grabbed 11 boards against #19 Butler. When Xavier needed him at any point this year, he was there. Farr was Xavier's anchor in the starting lineup, a big who could still stretch the floor with a 17 foot jumper, toss in a baby left hook, or nearly rip the rim from the stanchion.
Most importantly, Farr added a smiling ferocity to Xavier that they missed when Jalen was taking one of his frequent absences. From an afterthought freshman to the spine of the team as a senior, James Farr is the quintessential Xavier product. He developed with the team, responded to coaching, changed his role, and became a lane presence almost unequalled in the conference. I'll miss watching James because he was one of those guys who could play with a snarl when needed but flip that to a smile the next second. He obviously enjoyed playing the game, and that rubbed off on the people watching. Plus, I'd love watch him launch one more three. Farewell, James Farr, you will genuinely be missed.