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Does Dieonte Miles need a redshirt season?

The first question of the season deals with Xavier’s newest big body.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows.

When Xavier signed the (near) seven-footer out of Walton-Verona, the general consensus was that he might be a little bit of a project. Miles wasn’t necessarily a natural big, having been a bit of a tweener before a late growth spurt gave him the elite size he was going to need to get high-major interest. He had also struggled with some injury problems, having missed most of his junior year and only gotten back on the floor at full speed last summer.

Looking at him, it’s easy to see what a year of developmental time could do for him. Officially listed at 6’11”, 208, he looks like someone stretched out the version of Ed Sumner that first showed up on Xavier’s campus. Matt Jennings works wonders with willing subjects in the weight room, but Miles is probably more than a summer away from being able to bang in the paint in the Big East.

But...

Miles looked really solid in Spain. He runs the floor exceptionally well for a big man, and he showed good feel for where the pockets of space around the basket that he could exploit were. He’s a big target on the post, and his hands looked good. He (obviously) rebounded well both in and outside of his area. Finally, he showed good lateral movement on defense and is a gifted natural shot blocker whose physical tools augment a good feel for the art of defending the rim.

The most glaring flaw in Miles’s game in Spain came when he tried to bang for position. If the defense beat him to a spot and did its work early, he had real trouble overpowering his man or even making him budge. A charitable reading of the facts would lean into the idea that Miles was an almost-freshman playing against adults, but the fact is that he’s going to need to be able to push against dudes that size in conference play.

Dieonte’s ultimate fate will likely be decided by factors outside of his control. I think he’s got too much potential for the coaching staff to risk burning a year of his eligibility on 42 minutes of playing time the way Big Game James Farr got done as a freshman. If Dontarius James and Daniel Ramsey are healthy and Zach Freemantle is a capable backup right from the word go, Xavier has enough depth to redshirt Miles despite not having anyone with quite the defensive skill set around the rim that he has shown.

At the beginning of August, I thought Miles was a surefire redshirt. What he showed in Spain is that the Xavier coaching staff has a decision to make about him, and the fact that it’s not a no-brainer is a credit to his hard work and a huge boost for the program.