This week Xenia product Samari Curtis chose UC over Xavier. This, of course, spurred a great deal of tribalism on the internet. (Shocking, I know). The Crosstown Shootout doesn’t usually play out in head to head recruiting battles. For whatever reason, the programs recruit different players from different areas.
Aside from all of the usual reasons we could give as to why Xavier is the superior program, there’s an argument to be made that guards, especially people who fancy themselves point guards, would be much better served to play at Xavier. Of course, that comes with a caveat. Xavier’s coaching staff isn’t what it was for the last decade. Chris Mack is gone, and he took a chunk of the bench with him. There’s a lot of new faces in town since Samari Curtis first took a lot at the Musketeers.
The name that remains, though, is Travis Steele. Steele is the guy who works with the guards and sets the offense and has been since he arrived on campus. In that time Dee Davis went from a freshman who turned the ball over 30% of the time he touched it and shot 29.3% from behind the arc to one of the best pure point guards in the nation. Edmond Sumner came next and made such a jump in just two years that he’s now plying his trade as a two way player in The League.
That brings us to Quentin Goodin. As a freshman, Q had an A/TO ratio of less than 1/1, shot the ball at an appalling .350/.575/.255 rate, and spent a large portion of time looking very much like a guy who had expected to grow alongside Sumner rather than abruptly take over for him. Last season, Q was a different player. Aside from just scoring 19 against Georgetown or dishing out 12 assists against Villanova, Goodin had an assist rate of 27%, an offensive rating of 105.8, and shot .445/.791/.302 including a 39.5% mark behind the arc in conference play. There’s no question that guards under the tutelage of Steele develop, and develop well.
Which brings us to UC. Currently the point guard that has been on the roster the longest (Cane Broome is a transfer) is Justin Jenifer. Jenifer has a reputation as a shooter but shot 35.7% behind the arc last season, his junior year. He’s solid with the ball, but in Cronin’s “offense” last season the point guard had the lowest usage rate of any position.
Sure, you might say, but that’s cherry picking last year. A look, then, at Troy Caupain. Caupain was a four year guard under Cronin who posted career highs of 40.8% behind the arc and 78% at the line...as a sophomore. Caupain’s true shooting % actually decreased in his time at UC, with his final two years being his worst. In that time his offensive rating climbed a scant seven points from his freshman year to his senior year. Had Dee Davis done the same, he would have finished with an 85 ORtg, rather than the 108 he peaked at.
Cashmere Wright tells much the same story of a player peaking early, then stagnating or regressing in the rock fight Cronin encourages. Farad Cobb and Broome were both solid for UC, but both were developed elsewhere. Jacob Evans, Cronin’s prize pupil, increased his offensive efficiency exactly 2.2 points over three years. Like all Bearcats, he peaked early and had already begun to regress when he left for the draft.
Which brings us back to Samari Curtis. Rumor has it that he fancies himself a point guard. Instead of going to a program that is building a reputation for creating great guards, he went to one where guards flame out. Instead going to the place that turned JP Macura into an NBA player, he’s going to sit under the guy that was watching Jacob Evans be essentially the same player as a junior that he was as a freshman. Who knows what made Curtis change his mind, but history tells us he’s likely made the wrong call.