Welcome to the personnel portion of our 2018-19 season preview. We will be running down the players and coach who will represent the Musketeers this season and try to retain the Big East crown. We hope this helps you know what to expect for the upcoming year and, as always, enhances your experience following Xavier basketball this season!
Dontarius James stands out in a crowd of four as the only High School player to commit during the final year of Chris Mack’s reign and end up on Xavier’s campus without any further complications (other than breaking his cheekbone while ice skating). That is not necessarily a reason to get hyped about what he can do on a court (or on ice skates, for that matter), but does speak to the amount of upheaval there has been in program of late and the fact it doesn’t seem to have deterred the South Carolina native. With the departures of Sean O’Mara, Kerem Kanter, Trevon Bluiett, and Kaiser Gates, Xavier has some minutes to fill at the 4 and 5 positions and James enters school listed at 6’7” 210 and described by Coach Steele as “thic(c?)k and strong.” He will figure into the equation down low, but just how will be determined by his adjustment to life in high major college basketball.
Best Case Scenario
When you look at a strong, well built but slightly undersized forward who can put the ball into the hoop from all over the place, it is tempting to cast a hopeful eye across the conference at Villanova standout Eric Paschall and wonder if we may have found our own offensive swiss army knife. Am I saying that is what we can expect from James as a freshman? Absolutely. Mark it in stone, he is going to 10 and 5 a night and be the most efficient scorer in the Big East. If he doesn’t, I’ll fall on my sword. Okay, maybe not, but if James can get up to speed for X, he can play a role on offense with teams likely to be more worried about keeping guys like Marshall, Scruggs, Goodin, and Jones from doing their damage in the lane that about guarding the perimeter, where James has the ability to punish teams with both his shooting and his playmaking ability. Maybe not to the tune of a 134 ORTG, but well enough to be a player Steele can count on to make himself useful in conference play.
Worst Case Scenario
Most everything there is out there on James does not rave about his explosive athleticism. Coach Steele spoke about the training staff’s work with James to improve his quickness, which has involved him losing a bit of his bulk. In the worst case, James gets caught between the two. Not big or strong enough to bang on the block, not light and quick enough to stay in front of a guard. He comes with rave reviews about his scoring ability on offense, but we have seen the toll that a lack of confidence can take on a player (please come home, LAJ). James can’t make adjustment and struggles to find minutes as his opportunities and confidence dwindle.
This guy has a really exciting skill set and brings more versatility to the table than anyone on the roster, save Naji Marshall. I think he will get his chances early against some cupcakes and show he can bring a skill set we need on offense before hitting some all too predictable bumps during the dog days of February. He might not go for double digits in a conference game this year, but he will definitely show why he was sought after by schools like Kansas and Butler and give fans enough to be seen as a piece going forward.