The Travis Steele Era just caught another wave of momentum, as all four Xavier players who had declared for the NBA draft have taken their names out of consideration ahead of the deadline. Guards Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs, forward Naji Marshall, and post Tyrique Jones will all be back for the Muskies in the 2019-2020 season.
In Goodin, Xavier returns one of the most successful pass-first point guards in the program’s history. Forced into duty as a freshman when Edmond Sumner went down with a knee injury, all Goodin did was pilot the team to an Elite 8 appearance that year and a #1 seed the next. He combines elite athleticism with A+ court vision and has proven that he can pull the strings when provided with weapons around him. He’s also a complete war horse, routinely racking up 35+ minutes per game as the season comes down to brass tacks.
Joining him as a rising senior is Tyrique Jones, one of the baddest men to ever throw the X. Slimmed down for a starring role last year (also, did you hear Matt Stainbrook drives Uber?), he posted an ORtg in the top 150 in the nation, crushed the glass at both ends, and did better than ever at avoiding foul trouble. His brawn figures to be the backbone of this Xavier squad.
Not many teams have a 6’7” wing who rebounds like he’s 6’11” and brings the ball up like he’s 6’2”, but that’s exactly what Naji Marshall brings to the table for Xavier. He battled through injury and illness early in the season to be the go-to guy for a team that had lost four of them over the summer. When he got his shooting eye in down the stretch in Big East play, he was unstoppable and Xavier took off behind him. Beyond being able to defend 1-4 and kill possessions on the glass, he also ranked in the top 10 in the league in minutes percentage. Also, he’s my son’s favorite player.
Paul Scruggs has obvious abilities - he’s a big-body guard, he hits 38% of his threes, he finishes at the rim with either hand - but it’s his subtle skills that set him apart. He can probe a lane with patience reminiscent of Tu Holloway before finding the seam that he can split with the bounce or a pass to finish the play off. He can post up guards - not just small ones - and get to his spots with a polished array of pivot moves. He’s also a dog, never giving up on a play or a game and rallying the team on the few occasions that he’s off the court. Calling for him to blow up this year is so obvious it barely even counts.
Add to those guys a top 25 recruiting class and vital grad transfers in Jason Carter and Bryce Moore and Xavier has reloaded from an NIT team to a high-major force in basically no time. November can’t come soon enough.