Somewhere north of 700 dudes transferred between the end of last season and the beginning of this one in NCAA D1 ball. Many of them came from low- or mid-major teams and were trying to improve their position and exposure by jumping to the high-major ranks. The bulk of them, though, were just trying to find their level and a good fit, either by shifting between teams at the same level or sliding down after beginning their careers somewhere above where their talent would dictate.
Many of those guys would have stories similar to Dontarius James. As a freshman at Xavier, on a team less talented than the one he’s currently on, he got into 12 games and played 41 total minutes. He made one shot - a three - and pulled down four total boards. He and Leighton Schrand had the same number of assists. Along with fellow freshman Keonte Kennedy, he was tabbed as an obvious transfer candidate for Xavier.
Kennedy left, committing to TCU before decommitting and heading to UTEP. James stayed.
It’s hard to say too much about a guy from 41 minutes of playing time, but that’s not the only information we have on ol’ DJ. He’s a flex four with a wing’s height and a power forward’s thickness. He has a smooth jumper, as borne out by both his scouting reports coming out of high school and his tying for the win in the three-point shooting contest at Musketeer Madness this year.
It’s part of Xavier lore that James Farr got 42 minutes of playing time as a freshman and was a cornerstone of the team as a senior. That’s a glimmer of hope for this James, but Farr was a 6’10” banger with 30 pounds of muscle on James. He reconfigured his game from really tall sniper to unstoppable force in the paint. I’m not sure that’s in the cards for DJ.
On the other hand, James knows he has only 4 years of college eligibility before the real world intrudes forever, but he stuck around at Xavier. Travis Steele knows he only has 13 scholarships in hand for any given season, but he committed one to James. Both guys have strong motive for not pursuing that route if James didn’t fit some plans for the Muskies, but here we are.
In that we say things like defense travels and fast don’t lie, it’s also axiomatic that there’s a place on the floor for a guy who can hit jump shots. Defenses try to take away clean looks on the arc and anything in the paint; players who can hit the former and/or find the gaps that are left by teams taking away high-efficiency shots are worth their weight in gold. There’s a perfect world in which Dontarius is that guy.
Looking at the roster and the one game’s worth of minutes James got last year, I’m not sure I see it. If you’re a long-time reader of this site, though, you know I’ve been wrong before. There’s something to be said for sticking it out in an uphill battle the way James has. I hope it pays out for him this year.