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What does Kyky Tandy know that the rest of us don’t?

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Xavier’s talented guard returned after two years of limited playing time.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Xavier Katie Stratman-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.

Games of 18, 14, and 12 points and nine games in double figures underscored his scoring and star potential when healthy... Kyky Tandy’s star turn awaits, all he has to do is step up and take it.” Those are sentences from our player preview of Kyky Tandy last year. He was coming off a season in which he had played double digit minutes in every conference game and scored, as mentioned, in double figures in nine of those.

That pattern continued to start the 2020-21 season. Tandy went for 18, 4, 18, 24, and 10 in Xavier’s first five games. Tandy averaged 29 minutes in those games and had an offensive efficiency over 100 in four of them. Then he played 11 minutes with two points against UC, 11 with six points against Oklahoma, and disappeared. Kyky would see double digit minutes just three times the rest of the way, double digit points just once. In three games, he wouldn’t even see the court. An explosive 14 points in 22 minutes against Georgetown was just a teasing reminder of his potential. It was no surprise to anyone when he entered the transfer portal at the end of the season.

What was a shock was Tandy electing to come back to Xavier. To be very clear, nothing has changed at the guard position. Paul Scruggs, Adam Kunkel, Dwon Odom, Nate Johnson, and Colby Jones are all still on the team. CJ Wilcher has gone, but he wasn’t really impeding Tandy’s time anyway. Tandy had a meeting with Coach Travis Steele after the transfer announcement. What was said in there remains unknown, but it got Kyky back on the team.

How, though, does he get back on the court? The answer to that is shooting. Tandy is not the explosive slasher/finisher that Xavier fans had been hoping for when he came out of high school, but he can put the ball in the basket from range. This has differentiated him from most of his teammates the last two seasons. Xavier has two freshman coming in who can allegedly shoot the ball well from deep, but neither really factor in the discussion at the small guard positions. For Tandy to stay on the floor, he needs to make shots.

The other thing that Kyky needs to do is play defense. There was some debate over this as last season went on. After being called out by his coach in the press, Tandy responded with a game where he was first to the floor for loose balls, taking charges, and plugged in on the defensive end. He did that for multiple games with a net increase of exactly no playing time. To say his defense had reached the level of Colby Jones would be overstating it, but his effort couldn’t be questioned. Combine that with some result and Tandy will be right in the reckoning this season.

It was a shock when Kyky Tandy said he was coming back to Xavier. His talent is unquestioned though, and he’s demonstrated he can do it at this level. All that remains to be seen is what he knows, what Coach Steele told him, that got him back on the team this year. Another season on the bench would be a waste.