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Player preview: Can Adam Kunkel play point guard?

He may not have to start, but Xavier’s human firework may need to play some time at the one.

Syndication: The Enquirer Joshua A. Bickel / 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.

Adam Kunkel knows what he wants to do on a basketball court. He walks out looking for his, looks for his when he has the ball, looks for ways to get his when he is off the ball, and celebrates when he gets his. He scored nearly nine points per game (8.8), in just 23 minutes. The man was made to score.

Since coming to Xavier, a massive step up from Belmont, Kunkel’s efficiency in scoring has dipped a bit. His 101.8 offensive efficiency last season was solid, but not great. His usage rate of 20.1% was higher than Colby Jones and on par with Zach Freemantle. In conference play those numbers ticked up to 105.9 and 20.3%. Not afraid of the bib moment and relatively useful in it, Kunkel shot and scored a lot.

That’s because he was largely off the ball. Paul Scruggs and Dwon Odom generally handled the ball coming up the court and Colby Jones functioned as an auxiliary at times. Kunkel was the third choice point man and was essentially a shooting guard when he was on the floor. That isn’t an option this season. Xavier has no point man as such on the roster, save perhaps Desmond Claude.

Unless you think that Xavier is ready to run Claude at the point full time, and Tuesday’s scrimmage suggests that could be fraught, someone else will have to step in there. Is it Souley Boum? He’s not a pure point and has also looked for his shot in his career. Is it Kyky Tandy? He hasn’t played anything resembling a complete season for Xavier and remains something of an unknown.

That leaves the revolving door option (perhaps with Boum as primary). So can Kunkel at least deputize? The numbers suggest he can. For starters, he almost never turns the ball over. His highest turnover rate of his career came as a freshman and was still only 13.8%. Last season, even with that usage rate, it was only 12.5% Ball security is a paramount piece of Kunkel’s game. He excels at it.

But a point man isn’t just there to make sure the other team doesn’t get it, he has to facilitate. There, Kunkel is less adept. For Belmont he once posted a 16.2% assist rate. That’s not bad, but it won’t get you in the top playmakers by any stretch. Last season, his assist rate was a flat 15%. Again, decent, but nothing special.

This all comes from the way Kunkel plays. When he is on the court, no Xavier player shoots more. His shots rate of 24.2% was tops on the team last season. Simply put, Adam Kunkel is there to score the ball. As a point guard he would be sure to care for the ball well, but he wouldn’t, perhaps, be a natural at initiating offense. He’s in attack mode at all times. Putting him on the ball means the ball is safe, but at the cost of losing the team’s most aggressive offensive weapon. How that works out will depend on how Sean Miller thinks his dynamo is best deployed.