Zach Hankins came into what must have seemed to him a sure fire NCAA tournament team, then watched as the coach, half of the staff, and unexpected exits left the squad a shell of itself. Rather than sulk or mourn an opportunity missed, Hankins threw what was left over his shoulders and became yet another Xavier grad transfer that etched his name into the history of the program. For that, for a joie de vivre too often missing from elite sport, and for single (double?) handedly bringing back raising the roof, he is this season’s Xavier basketball MVP.
Community Grade: A+
|Zach Hankins||Votes||% of votes|
|Community GPA: 3.66|
No one embraces a big man with some style quirks quite like Xavier, and that is evident in the voting. Zach’s hair choice was not a throwback, but his back to the basket game was. In a world dominated by guys looking to pick and pop, Hankins quick feet and ability to finish both around and at the rim led him to 68% shooting on the season. That merits an A+.
Banners Staff Grade: A+
Who are we to argue? We fell under the spell of Hankins quickly, despite my really ignorant assertion at the start of the year that he wasn’t a great defender. In the pantheon of bad takes, that one will be Hall of Fame worthy. Even when Hanky wasn’t part of the offense early, he was throwing shots. His 8.3% rate for the year was good for 54th in the nation. An offensive rebounding rate of 12.2% jumped to 13.5% in conference, while an already low turnover rate of 13.4% dropped to just 11.6% in the Big East. In short, Hankins ended opponent possessions and Xavier’s alive.
In the more recognizable triple slash, Hankins was good for 10.6/5.3/1.1. Couple that with 1.5 blocks and less than two fouls and you have an incredibly effective post. Travis Steele measured out Hankins minutes all year, using him on average only 21.9 per game and saving the big man for the big occasions. 30 minutes in the storming comeback against Georgetown led to 23/10/2, 32 against Creighton in a must win game saw Zach produce 22/9/2. The jump in minutes in conference play had not commensurate loss of effectiveness either. Hankins offensive rating in the Big East was 127.5, fourth in the conference.
But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Hankins played with a smile on face, unabashedly raised the roof, wore his hair in a... something, smiled, laughed, roared after big dunks or blocks, engaged with the fans, and generally behaved like a college kid having the time of his life. It is perhaps too much to ask every player to be expressive and happy in something that is far more demanding even than a full time job and the lunacy of the “well they get a free degree” does nothing in the face of what goes into earning it. When someone does act like they’ve been handed a great gift, a second chance, or maybe just seems to enjoy the game that little more than everyone else, it has an impact on everyone watching. When that same person is also a great player, he earns Xavier’s MVP for the season.