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Xavier 2018-2019 Player Preview: Naji Marshall

Naji Marshall was a clear star in the making his freshman year. With Tre and JP gone, is he going to make the leap as a sophomore?

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John’s vs Xavier
Why does he dunk lefty though?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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!

Naji Marshall wasn’t the most highly-rated member of Xavier’s freshman class last year, but he made the most immediate impression. He dropped 12 on Morehead in the opener, hit double figures again against #16 Baylor, and had a smooth 3/4/4 on just one shot attempt against UC. By the time he was making a case as Xavier’s best player on the floor in the 22-point comeback against ETSU, most Muskie fans realized he was going to be the guy who could fill in the gaps left by Tre and JP.

Now those two dudes are gone, and someone is going to have to pick up the slack left behind. Naji is, frankly, the obvious response.

Best case scenario

Naji’s versatility makes him a nightmare for opponents on both ends of the floor. His sneaky-good jumper (51.9% from mid-range last year) and not sneaky, just good layup package couple with improved accuracy and volume from deep, leaving no good way to guard him. On the other end, he hasn’t gotten any shorter or less nimble than he was last year, and opponents’ have to scheme to get their best players away from him. He’s a Big East James Posey.

Worst case scenario

Still pretty darn good, unless he gets hurt. With more attention on him as a primary option instead of a tertiary one, he has games where he struggles to find his eye as a scorer. He’s still a dang spider monkey on the defensive end, and his hustle helps him find clean-up buckets even when the other team is keying on him. I don’t think the pressure of being the guy gets to him, but carrying the load on a team that is coming together on the fly dings his efficiency.

Most likely scenario

Bart Torvik has projected a line of 10.7/5.7/1.8 for Naji this year; I might be inclined to take the over on two of those three numbers. He has the physical tools to be a star, and he certainly demonstrated a knack for popping up in the right places last year. I think Q, Scruggernuts, and Naj end up as one of the most explosive perimeter groups in the league by the time Big East play hits its stride, and I think Naji will be the guy who makes things tick on both ends of the floor.