“Recruiting is the lifeblood of our program.” -Head Coach Travis Steele. If that is the case, Xavier is hemorrhaging right now. Decommitments and fickle teenagers are part of life for a college basketball program, but in Xavier’s case recently, the defections have become an issue worthy of concern at the very least.
Since Steele took over, Xavier has lost Evan Boudreaux, Samari Curtis, Jake Walter, and now Elias King. Keonte Kennedy also left and re-opened his recruiting, but did eventually return to Xavier. That adds up to four players missing off this season’s roster, plus Kentrevious Jones starting his freshman year at Oklahoma State.
That leaves Xavier’s confirmed incoming freshman as Keonte Kennedy and Dontarius James. Yes, Zach Hankins, Ryan Welage, and Kyle Castlin have joined the team, but the lower end of the roster is remarkably thin. The Musketeers have had few incoming freshman before, but those have usually been augmented by transfers with years left. In this case, they are not. Xavier’s incoming big three are all grad transfers, here for a year before moving on.
So what, exactly, does this mean? For starters, it means that Travis Steele needs a big class next year to flesh out his roster. Quite simply, without quite a few incoming players, Xavier is going to be short on manpower. Secondly, it also means that the loss of Coach Mack was the non-event that some of Xavier Twitter was trying to pass it off as. For all of the bluster about Steele and the insistence that the program is the thing, losing the all-time wins leader has clearly damaged the Musketeers. It’s hard to imagine Samari Curtis heading to the guard wasteland across town if Chris Mack were still on scene.
That doesn’t mean that this is the time to panic. Steele has still shown the ability to land recruits and players that other teams want. Some of those have slipped back out the cracks, but, in a time of flux, maybe that’s not completely unexpected. Further, it hasn’t dampened the new head man’s pursuit of the next class, as evidenced by yesterday’s news and the securing of Dwon Odom. Maybe Elias King will pull a Keonte Kennedy and still end up on campus. Jake Walter’s problems, such as they are, also don’t really belong at the feet of Steele as they do Iustitia.
This hasn’t been the smoothest of offseasons for Xavier, but there is still talent on this team. Some recruits have dropped off, but others are already being looked at in their place. It isn’t business as usual and the program has undoubtedly taken a hit, but it’s not quite time to pull the fire alarm just yet.