Xavier’s TBT team is comprised of fan favorites and cult heroes of teams gone by. In this brief series we are going to focus on the moment that encapsulates that players career. This won’t necessarily be the guy’s best game or his biggest scoring output, but it will be the one (we think) that demonstrates what he meant to the program or the one that everyone will remember. Feel free to disagree in the comments and on Twitter.
After making a run to the Elite Eight as an 11 seed in March of 2017, expectations were as high as they had been in quite some time on Victory Parkway. While Edmond Sumner, RaShid Gaston, and Malcolm Bernard were departing, Xavier was bringing back star duo Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura to lead the attack surrounded by an arsenal of tertiary weapons, perhaps none of whom were as intriguing as rising Junior Kaiser Gates. Standing 6’8”, Gates had proven himself to be a reliable three point threat as well as someone capable of scoring in the lane and more than holding his own on the glass. All this was on display one night in November of 2017 as he stepped to the fore to lead Xavier past a Big 12 power and avenge a setback from the previous season.
Coming into the contest, Baylor was ranked 16th in country, 5 spots ahead of Xavier, and featured the best thing about ESPN’s lackluster College Basketball coverage King McClure as well as future 2020 Nation Champion Mark Vital. The Bears had hammered Xavier by 15 a season prior in Waco, so this represented a chance to prove this team’s improvement over the year prior as well as a final tune up before the Crosstown Shootout that weekend.
Gates came out firing, hitting two of his three first half threes in the first 5 minutes, but was greatly overshadowed by JP Macura’s 17 point explosion in the opening 20 minutes. In the second half, Xavier had it all going their way as the lead swelled to 14 by the 11 minute mark, Gates having chipped in with 7 points in the opening 9 minutes. However, McClure and the Bears were not going to lie down and the Junior star came to life, leading Baylor back to within 5 with 7 minutes left. As Xavier fought to stem the tide, McClure kept the momentum in Baylor’s favor with a bucket to cut the lead to 6 with 3:29 to play. After a pair of free throws by Quentin Goodin and a Macura block of McClure, Xavier had a chance to kill the game off once and for all and secure a vital Q1 win over an opponent that had pummeled them a year prior.
With Xavier seeking a knockout blow, Gates stepped to the fore again. After taking a dribble handoff from Bluiett, Goodin drove the left side of the lane, working a screen and roll action with Tyrique Jones. With the frankly otherworldly length of Jo Lual-Acuil cutting off the option of finding Jones, Goodin fired a pass to the right corner where Gates had sprung free off a pick from Macura. Directly in front of the Xavier bench, Gates caught the chest high pass and fired without a second though, ending Baylor’s chances of a comeback and setting up a Crosstown Shootout between undefeated squads that would provide the biggest fireworks of the post-brawl era.
Since leaving Xavier, Gates stuck around in the G League for three seasons before signing on with HAPOEL Jerusalem, where he played 13 games this season. He also posted a double-double in that memorable Crosstown Shootout, including three offensive rebounds against UC’s vaunted front line.