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Xavier 2017-18 Player Preview: Elias Harden

Elias Harden isn’t getting as much buzz as some of Xavier’s other 2017 freshmen, but he’s going to be a key cog in the Muskie machine.

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Know what you need to do to win a basketball game? Score more than the other team does. Stopping the other team from scoring is one possible solution, but that’s no fun unless you’re too short to get onto the rides at King’s Island. The other option is to just keep scoring the basketball until the other guys can’t keep up, and that’s where Elias Harden comes in.

Harden is a 6’5”, 183-pound guard who just splashes from all over. He can finish below the rim with either hand, but he’s not going to run through the middle and put someone on a poster. His real value is being able to consistently get his shot off - and have it go in - despite having defenders all up in his beeswax. With good touch in the mid-range and from beyond the arc, Harden is a dangerous weapon on the offensive end.

Best-case scenario:

Trevon Bluiett lite. Harden is a tick smaller than Tre and a bit lighter, but he has some of the same quick-release skills and shot-hunting smarts on the offensive end. Tre hit the ground running in college, averaging 18 PPG in his first four games as a freshman. Harden won’t be asked to do as much as Bluiett was from the word go, but he gets his chances and makes the most of them, forcing his way onto the court by providing a consistent offensive threat with his jumper.

Worst-case scenario:

It’s always hard to predict how the transition from high school to college is going to treat a freshman. College defenses are generally longer, more athletic, and more aggressive than their secondary ed counterparts. If Harden can’t make his way into traffic in the paint and come out with positive results, teams will crowd him out of his jump shot. His body still has plenty of room to fill out, and that’s what he spends the year doing.

Most likely scenario:

On a team that returns most of its talent and came just a couple dozen good bounces from making the Final Four last year, Harden isn’t going to be asked to carry too much of the load. He can concentrate on getting comfortable at the college level and finding the places on the floor that are going to allow him to excel. This year will have its ups and downs, but it will also set the foundation for a solid future.