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Zach Hankins is just the best

He hasn’t gotten much national ink, but the former D2 player of the year has been a bright spot in a dark season.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Creighton
“High fives for me!”
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Hankins is in the top 100 in the nation in ORtg, where his 127.7 mark places him 36th. He’s also in the top 100 in OReb%, clocking in at 73rd with a 12.7% mark. Ditto block percentage, 65th at 8.1%. Also, two-point field goal percentage, 17th at 70.4%. He leads the team in all of those categories except OReb%, where he’s behind Tyrique Jones’s 17.3%. No shame there, as everyone except La Salle’s Ed Croswell trails Jones.

You can go back a long way in Xavier history and not find a big man - not find a player - as effective as Hankins has been for Xavier. In fact, among players who played at least half the team’s minutes and had a usage rate of at least 20%, Hanky more or less stands alone.

The two closest comps in the analytics era for Xavier are Brian Thornton in 2006 and Justin Cage in 2007. Thornton was on his way to one of the best seasons in Xavier history, posting an ORtg of 132.2 on a usage rate of 27.5%, but injury cut his season short at 21 games. Like Hankins, he was incredibly efficient around the rim, shooting 64% from two-point range, but he was also an almost 70% free throw shooter. If he had been healthy, he might well have dropped 500 points that year. He was also a great offensive rebounder (14.4%, 22nd) and rim protector (8.9% block rate, 36th).

Justin Cage was a different kind of player, but his 124.3 ORtg was 25th in the country. His usage rate was only 17% and his shots rate was just 13.7%; he could afford to pick his spots. His spots often came on the offensive glass, where he grabbed 1 of every 10 Xavier misses when he was on the floor. He was also great at getting to the line, ranking 6th in the country with a 94.1% FT rate; he shot almost as many free throws as he did field goals. Also, that was definitely an intentional foul.

After those guys, it’s hard to find a comp. Jason Love was my favorite player on some really good teams, but he didn’t score from the post or defend the rim like Hankins. Jalmes Farrnolds combined to put up bigger numbers, but was never this efficient, never protected the rim, never hit the O boards, and was never just one guy like Hankins is.

Thornton’s final year was marred by a season-ending injury. Justin Cage’s was ruined by a referee with selective blindness or a fortitude deficit.

The book isn’t closed on Zach Hankins just yet, but it seems foregone that he will go down as a member of the worst Xavier team in recent memory. The future is bright for Xavier, and I don’t think I need to remind you of the past; Hanky just had the misfortune to spend his only year on Victory Parkway on the bridge between the two.

There’s still time for this year to turn around. Whether or not it does, though, we should take every game as an opportunity to appreciate the singular brilliance of Zach Hankins, a worthy addition to the pantheon of great Xavier big men.