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Can Jason Carter shoot well enough to be the steady performer Xavier needs?

Jason Carter has the potential to stand in the vital gap between Xavier’s stars and the rotation.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Brad Mills-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.

On every team there is a gap. The stars hold the upper level of the rotation, get the media attention, take the big shots, make the big plays, and come to mind when you think of the team. At the other end come the role players. These guys come off the bench to knock down a shot, get a key stop, or grab a rebound. They may play ten minutes a game, but those ten minutes may change the course of the game. In between those two strata of players lie the guys who make the difference, day in and day out.

Xavier last season was a near perfect example of this. Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones, and Paul Scruggs did the heavy lifting and did it well. Kyky Tandy and Zach Freemantle made an impact off the bench. Besides a lack of strength in depth, there was no one on the team who slotted in between the stars and the up and comers to provide a steady hand. Jason Carter was occasionally effective in that role last year, and could be vital in it this year.

Carter’s contribution essentially boils down to how well he shoots the basketball. His line of 6.9/4.9/1.4 was tantalizingly close to being what Xavier needed in a bridge player, but was weighed down by a .399/.701/.317 shooting line, by far Carter’s worst as a collegiate player. When Carter shot well, he was a dangerous weapon that freed up Xavier’s stars and role players to do their thing. Against Butler he was 5-8 from the floor and went for 17/2/0. In a loss to Seton Hall Carter went 6-10 for 14/2/1. Even if his scoring doesn’t reach double figures (in the win over TCU he was 3-5 for 7/2/3), when Jason shoots well he more than earns his 25+ minutes per game.

These games are outliers, though. There is no kind way of putting it: Jason Carter struggled to shoot the ball last season. His field goal percentage at the rim was lower than any one else on the team save Quentin Goodin. Too often, it seemed like Carter shied away or drifted to his weak shoulder rather than attacking the rim. (Nate Watson may disagree). This is reflected in the fact that 32% of Carter’s shot attempts ended up classified as two point jumpers. While these can be a weapon for an Adam Kunkel type who can fake from deep and then find room, for a big they betray a lack of confidence in close. Even more alarmingly, Xavier’s transfer big made only 27% of those attempts.

Jason Carter has a part to play on a successful Xavier team. He can rebound, he can block shots, and he’s an astute passer. Whether he becomes that vital player that Xavier can plug in and rely on comes down to whether he makes shots. The rest of it will be there, if Carter’s shot falls, he fills a lot of Xavier’s empty rotation space.