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Xavier 2017-2018 Player Preview: Kaiser Gates

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Xavier’s lone junior is at a make or break point in his career.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier
Kaiser drains threes and looks wistful. It’s what he does.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote around this time last year that Kaiser Gates could be entering a crossroads in his career. From where we stood before last season started, it looked only like some switch needed to be thrown to get the obviously talented forward to become an elite player. Then, Kaiser got hurt and missed the first five games. Then he came back tentative. Then, things got crazy.

In December and January, Gates showed flashes of being a dominant scorer, willing to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. The high point of that was a game against St. John’s where he knocked down four three pointers but also got to the line and the lane on his way to 17. Given just a hair’s breadth of room to shoot, he was deadly. Driving created that room.

Apparently bored with that, Gates spent late January and all of February as the best rebounder on the team, averaging 7.6 boards for an eight game stretch and grabbing more than three offensive rebounds thrice in that span. With that phase out of his system, Gates morphed into a pure three pointer shooter for March, going 10-32 behind the arc for the month and only attempting 10 two point field goals. In that span came the Florida State game, his best of the year, when he went for 14/5/2 and missed only one shot attempt.

So what is Kaiser Gates? He enters his junior year still an unsolved mystery. He has bucketfuls of talent but seems to apply it only sporadically or only in certain areas. He’s unstoppable at times, and also quite capable of throwing up a frankly amazing 12 minute trillion (Butler at home). For now, he seems like a better developed version of Jeff Robinson. What Robinson had going for him that Gates doesn’t was the Atlantic 10. The Big East and Big East recruits won’t wait.

Best case scenario:

Gates flips the switch and spends the season melding his gifts together perfectly. He can shoot, he can leap, he can run, and he can punish the glass. Were he a recruit, we’d be drooling. If he applies everything, all the time, he’ll go for 10/5/2 and have games where he can’t be checked.

Worst case scenario:

Last season again. Kaiser spends some games shooting really well, some rebounding really well, and some racking up minutes while barely being visible on the floor.

Most likely scenario:

As a pick and pop four, Gates would be a matchup nightmare. Look for him to again spend a lot of time on the perimeter. He can change games there, just ask Maryland, and there are worse things than a 6-8 guy pouring in threes. If he finds his stroke, he’ll be a great floor spacer for Xavier’s bevy of quicksilver guards.