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.
Dieonte Miles is a good basketball player. You don’t end up playing at Xavier, even briefly, without being good at America’s pastime. (Sorry, baseball.) In last season’s preview, reflecting that belief and his scouting reports, Joel wrote of Miles, “a reasonable person should be looking for him to be in the mix to be the first big man off the bench, a difference maker especially on the defensive end, and a guy who can take over short stretches of the game when he has his eye in.”
For exactly two games that seemed prescient. In those first two games, admittedly against weak competition, Miles went for 12/3/3 in 28 minutes of play. He was 6-9 from the floor, 0-2 from the line, and blocked three shots. So far, so good. Then, things changed. Miles played in each of the next three games, none against anyone terribly good, scored six more points and was at least a rotation player. Then he didn’t play against UC in the Shootout, then he played only eight minutes the entire rest of the season. For a start that went so well, Miles season was essentially over shortly after it started.
That leaves Dieonte in a tough spot this season. He struggled with injuries that limited his time last season. Jason Carter and Brian Griffin are gone from the blocks this season, but Xavier has brought in two freshman who could play down there, as well as Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter. It’s not as if playing time will suddenly come easy for Dieonte now. The competition that is generally the rule at forward at Xavier is still there.
Still, Dieonte has a skill set that can play in the Big East. He’s big and getting bigger, he can shoot the ball a little bit, and he’s very light on his feet. When he is healthy and theoretically, when he is playing well, he brings something to the team that no one else does. He’s a relentless shot blocker (his 13.9% block rate was double anyone else on the team last season) who can run and jump. In an alternate reality, Miles is a prototypical St. John’s player for those teams that could sprint from one end to the other taking bad shots. Only he doesn’t really take bad shots.
So what, then? Where does Dieonte Miles fit? That is a question for Travis Steele. He can be a deadly back side defensive partner for another big. He can stretch defense but also bang inside with large Big East player. He can run. All of that is incumbent on his being healthy. Dieonte Miles can fit anywhere or he can fit nowhere. This is his make or break season.