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Player preview: Will persistence pay for Kyky Tandy?

It has been a long, hard road for Kyky Tandy, but he’s stuck it through in hopes of one last shot.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

Xavier has had few recruits arrive with as much hype as Kyky Tandy did. He jumped over a dude in high school and banged his chin on the rim. His vertical was legend before he even arrived on campus. He could take games over from deep, he could slash, he could score from all over. He was nationally heralded and expected to have a massive impact immediately.

Our season previews for Tandy are littered with optimistic projections and hopes for Tandy:

“he’s also the kind of guy who can step right onto the floor as a freshman and make a difference even as he learns to adapt to the college game. By the time conference play rolls around, I think he’ll be more than just a change of pace off the bench. I’m really excited for what this kid can do.”

“KyKy Tandy is a weapon that most defenses are not equipped to handle. As a scorer he is probably Xavier’s primary threat either getting to the lane and getting his own shot or catching and shooting from the outside. On the ball, Tandy is at least a reliable set of hands on a team that greatly lacked that last season.”

“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.”

We now enter what will be Tandy’s fourth and final season at Xavier. He has averaged 6/1.2/1.0 in 16 games a minute in 49 games at Xavier. That slash line isn’t awful, even if it isn’t the star turn fans were expecting, but the number of games tells the story. More than half of them came in his freshman season. Since then, Tandy has been unable to get healthy and unable to get on the floor in the rare times he was healthy.

But, oh, when he has played. Tandy’s freshman year looked like freshman year should. He was occasionally brilliant, like when he scored 18 with six boards in just 13 shots against Georgetown, but mostly he was inconsistent but improving. The stage was set for a great second season. In that sophomore year he hit the ground running. In the ten games before the turn of the year (Covid, remember?) he played double digit minutes in all but one and played 41 EKU. He poured in a career high 24 against Toledo.

Then he only played 50 minutes total in the last 11. Coach Travis Steele mentioned Tandy’s effort and defense as lacking, and to be fair Kyky is not a great defender, but there was no real explanation for what had happened to a rotation player. He came in for 22 minutes against Georgetown, torched them, and then vanished again. Last season Kyky played 33 minutes over five games, got injured in December, and then had season ending surgery.

An odd thing happened along the way though. Through all of that, Kyky Tandy stayed at Xavier. No one would have blamed him for leaving, he probably should have, frankly, but there he was, waving a towel, high fiving, and steadfastly just sticking it out. In a college landscape where players move at the drop of a hat, Tandy has become a fan favorite simply by putting his head down and working. His teammates love him, the fans love him, and he seems to love the school right back.

Xavier’s backcourt is crowded now. Kam Craft can shoot like Kyky, Desmond Claude is a point guard, Souley Boum is a dynamic scorer, and Adam Kunkel is the only Adam Kunkel in the nation. Kyky isn’t old, but he’s an elder statesman here. His road to playing time is through defense and that deadeye shooting he has when he gets going.

So where does all that leave him? Tandy started Xavier’s first game and has drawn raves from Coach Sean Miller for his effort and intensity. He’s lost 10-15 pounds and 5% body fat and looks like a more lithe version of himself. He looks, one might say, like he did as a freshman again. Kyky is a grown man now, but that incredible basketball potential for a fairy tale ending is still in there. Xavier fans will be praying he gets it.