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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Jacksonville

The Muskies sent Dontarius James to Jacksonville in the Steele Era; the Dolphins repay X with a home game this season.

NCAA Basketball: Jacksonville at Miami-Florida
There’s only one King James.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: Xavier legend Dontarius James transferred to Jacksonville where, having found his true level, he was highly successful. For one glorious season, he averaged 17.5/4.3/1.1 and was 4th in the conference in made threes. He then transferred to Howard for his senior season but did not ever actually appear in a game for them.

Jacksonville was not good last season. They were 13-16 overall but only 10-16 in D1 play. They somehow won at KenPom #60 VCU, a Q1 game for the resume. They also lost at home to KenPom #262 Bellarmine, which would be Q5 if such a thing existed. They capped their season by not qualifying for the Atlantic Sun tournament. They went 1-7 in their last 8 games, a disastrous run in that torpedoed their entire season - not that it was going super great anyway.

At the helm of this ship is Jordan Mincy, the MAC leader for games played when he graduated Kent State in 2009. He’s in his third season leading Jacksonville, and the progress hasn’t been entirely steady. They made the conference tournament final in his first season but got buried by a 17-2 Bellarmine run in the first half. Last year was a bit of a disaster. He’s looking to get things settled here soon before the clock runs out on him.

His offensive plan is kind of incoherent beyond playing extremely slowly. He crashed the glass his first year and was absent there the second. His 3P rate jumped by 8 points between seasons and his free throw rate plummeted. Neither offense was good. His defenses don’t force turnovers, but they shut down the glass and concede the arc. Opponents haven’t shot well against them; make of that what you will.

Key departures

Leading scorer and assist guy Kevion Nolan graduated. He averaged 13.0/3.9/4.3 on an EFG% of 48.7% and led the team in usage rate. Big man Mike Marsh was a dominant offensive rebounder and the only other player on the team to average double digit scoring; he departed to play out his remaining eligibility at Oklahoma State.

Moving down the scoring charts, fourth-leading scorer Jordan Davis and his 9.2/4.9/2.0 per game have also moved on; the 6’3” guard simply ran out of eligibility after a solid career. The same fate befell big man and leading rebounder Osayi Osifo, who averaged 7.5/5.7/0.7 last year. Might as well throw in guard Dylan O’Hearn and his 5.9/3.0/1.1 per game as well and we’ve got 5 of the team’s top 6 scorers not coming back for this season. I’m sure it’s gonna be great.

Key returnees

Rising junior guard Gyasi Powell is back! He is a 6’3” gunner who averaged 9.4/4.0/2.1 and shot 41.2% from beyond the arc last season. He’s just kind of there in contexts that aren’t scoring, but he does okay on the boards and distributes a reasonable amount. He was a good complimentary piece for a team that is going to ask him to be a lot more than that this season.

Also back is guard Jarius Cook. He’s a 6’3” rising senior who averaged 5.4 PPG and shot 37% from three last year. He also made a grand total of 10 two-point buckets and 5 free throws against D1 competition last year, so I’m not sure how viable asking him to fill a big hole in the offensive game plan is.

And that’s it. The next leading scorer and rebounder who returns is Jalen Nesmith, who recorded 34 points and 23 boards in 19 games last year. It’s a sparse roster.

Incoming players

Gotta restock! Big man DeeJuan Pruitt is a transfer from SIU-Edwardsville. He’s a 6’8”, 230-pound rising junior who averaged 10.6 and 7.7 as a Cougar last year. He did really well on the glass at both ends, shot 56% from inside the arc and hit more than 75% of his free throws. He also shot 61 threes for some reason despite connecting at a 26.2% clip. He’s a great piece for a team that is in need of big man minutes.

Speaking of big men, Stephon Payne III fits the bill in one regard, standing 6’9” but weighing in at a modest 210 pounds. He played for Incarnate Word last year and 6.0/4.7/0.5 per game. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder and rim protector, but he was only solid on the defensive glass and didn’t offer much offense away from the rim.

Also coming in is JuCo guard Marcus Niblack. He went to ETSU out of high school, made basically no headway there, and transferred to Northwest Florida State, where he averaged just over 10/4/4 last year. He’s a bit of a gunner, shooting .424/.302/.760, but someone is going to have to get shots up for the Dolphins and he’s auditioning for the job.

Turkish wing Sayhan Yetkin is a 6’5” JuCo guy who averaged 6.9/3.1/0.7 last year at Casper College. He’s joined by Chipola College transfer Zach Bell, a 6’2” guard who averaged 7.4 PPG and shot almost 40% from behind the arc in his lone junior college season.

SIUE big man transfer Jonathan Kurtas (4.0/31./0.5), Wake guard Robert McCray (1.9/0.6/0.2), and redshirt freshman Josiah Sabino (likes to whistle, per his official bio) will all also be vying for minutes.


Where to start? This is a team that took a big step back last year and then lost 5 of their top 6 players in the offseason. They replaced them with a mishmash of JuCo guys and D1 transfers that they’re going to have to try to cobble together on the fly. Running the whole operation is a third-year head coach who is still shy of his 40th birthday. If he can turn this team into a contender for the conference, it will be the kind of minor miracle that catches the attention of more nationally relevant programs. Given what he has to work with, a .500 record would be a solid performance.