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Do Xavier fans already know CJ Wilcher?

Wilcher is another in a line of tall guards that Travis Steele has brought in. Will he be able to find immediate success on a team that badly needed shooters last year?

NCAA Basketball: Siena at Xavier
Picture hopefully unrelated.
Frank Victores-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. We know and you know the caveats that Covid brings, so this will be the only mention of it.

When Xavier landed a top-100 6’5” guard who can, according to various recruiting sites “fill it up from anywhere on the floor” and “provide Xavier with an infusion of scoring” who the staff said “can make a big impact at Xavier,” the Muskie faithful were understandably excited. The man himself said, “I can run the floor and I’m a big guard who can defend, so they’ll use me in a lot of different ways.” All of that is ancient history, though, because those quotes are all from or about Dahmir Bishop.

If Dahmir Bishop’s career had turned out as hoped for, CJ Wilcher might not have ever landed at Xavier. Wilcher is, at least at first glance, cut from the same mold as Bishop. He has good size for a guard and comes in billed as a scorer with good range on his jumper.

As Xavier fans found out with Bishop, there's more to the transition from top-100 guy with a good stroke to effective college player than just glowing headlines in the summer and picking out a uniform number for the fall. Bishop never appeared to get his legs under him at Xavier, and by the time he hit the transfer portal and eventually left for St. Joseph's, the writing had been on the wall for some time.

Oh, and those first two paragraphs? They weren't initially written comparing Wilcher to Bishop, they were comparing Bishop to Elias Harden, another guy who ticked all the boxes before arriving on campus before transferring down after an underwhelming Xavier career.

So what, if anything, makes Wilcher different? The best answer may be found in the sheer breadth of his offensive repertoire. He doesn't have the high-level athleticism that Harden and Bishop boasted, but he makes up for it with an advanced understanding of how to position his body to create the angles he needs to score. He can get his out of the post, in the mid-range - especially off of crafty step-back footwork, and from deep. He may not have the sheer run-and-jump athletic ability of his predecessors in the open floor, but he is very clever in crafting the half spaces it takes to get a shot off at the highest level.

He's also a big-game performer. As a sophomore, he stuck 5 threes on his way to 28 points in winning the state championship game. As a senior, he dragged his team back from down 11 with 4 minutes to go by drilling three consecutive bombs for a personal 9-0 run in a state semifinal he ended up winning by 2.

You know you want some video of that:

Wilcher was listed at 210 in high school, but he's sitting at 195 on Xavier's official roster. That's definitely a step in the right direction as far as wringing everything he can out of his body for a D1 season. Defense is not Wilcher's strong suit, but it may end up being a decisive factor in his season both in remaining a viable option to stay on the court and in being able to handle his responsibilities on that end while not draining all the energy he needs to be an offensive threat.

Unlike Harden and Bishop, CJ comes into a team that will allow him a bit of breathing space. With more experience and depth around him than either of those players enjoyed, he'll hopefully be able to slot into a role that allows him to play to his strengths while he gets settled into the collegiate game. He won't be asked to do everything on offense right away, but I have high hopes that he'll develop into a guy who can carry a game before his time at Xavier is through.