The news broke this week that Xavier had obtained permission to talk with New Mexico guard Cullen Neal about a graduate transfer that would bring Neal in eligible to play immediately. Astute Xavier fans noted that there is no scholarship available for Neal should the team remain comprised as it is. News broke yesterday that Makinde London isn't leaving, and with Trevon Bluiett not currently looking likely to go in the NBA draft, that leaves only a couple of places where Xavier might free up a scholarship.
One of those is, of course, Jalen Reynolds. Joel broke down his reasons to go or stay yesterday. The other possible departure would be Larry Austin Jr. LAJ played in every game this year, if only in a cameo role in a couple. In those 34 games he averaged 10 minutes and a line of 1.9/1.2/1.2 on a shooting line of .404/.000/.625. Those numbers don't reflect every thing that Larry did though, as a lot of his game impact came on defense. Austin established himself as a reasonably good on ball defender this season when given a chance.
The case for staying:
The case for staying is pretty simple: there's not another school that LAJ is going to land at that is a reasonable Final Four contender. Remy Abell's graduation opens up a spot for a defensive minded player in the rotation. Remy helped himself by knocking down shots, but Larry could also fill the role of jet heeled outlet man. LAJ also has two years in this system and had, at times, established himself as a solid backup option when Edmond Sumner was taking a break.
Larry has also shown improvement both of the years he's been on the team. His recruitment was something of an afterthought to begin with, but he's made it worthwhile. By sticking around as a junior he would himself still on the rise on a team that is going to be loaded with younger talent and players that can work well off the ball. Should LAJ spend the summer working on his ball security, he becomes a comfortable fall back for Coach Mack when his team full of playmakers gets a little ahead of themselves.
The case for leaving:
LAJ would consider transferring out for one of the reasons he might stay. Try as he may, Larry will never have the shot of Myles Davis, the explosiveness of Sumner or Quentin Goodin, or the size to drop and play the three. He's essentially pegged in as the backup point guard, no matter what happens. That's best case scenario for him. There's also the chance that LAJ slips farther down the pecking order.
Larry also isn't getting more chances as time goes on. Austin played double digit minutes in all but two of the first 16 games. In the next 18, he cracked double digits only five times. In the last three games of the year, LAJ played a grand total of four minutes. Part of that is down to the fact that Larry had the highest turnover rate on the team for the season. His 30% rate only looks good in comparison to the 44.7% rate he had last year. Simply put, Larry may transfer because he wants to play a larger role somewhere the competition is more to his level.
Cullen Neal may not be a great player, but as a like for like replacement for LAJ in the backup point guard role, it's hard not to see him as an offensive upgrade. The fact that guard doesn't seem like a position of concern next year probably bends the argument slightly in favor of Neal taking LAJ's scholarship next year as opposed to Jalen's. That said, LAJ is probably the better defender and Xavier could do worse if he continues to develop like he has. This decision will ultimately come down to whether Larry feels he can step up his game to meet the incoming competition.