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Season Preview: Freshmen in the backcourt

Can you win with a callow backcourt? Sean Miller and Xavier aim to find out.

Xavier v Purdue
This freshman turned out just fine
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We’re back! The summer was over. It was filled with two baseball teams that flattered to deceive, an excellent Women’s World Cup, and the oppressive humid heat that comes with Ohio in the summer. That’s all in the past now. College basketball, praise God, is back. With that comes your favorite (just go with it) brother-run Xavier site. The podcast will be back soon, but for now we’re jumping into previewing the team that will take the court for Xavier this year.

There might be no trope that college basketball announcers love to trot out in March quite like that of the overwhelmed freshman guard. Never mind that he’s played basketball his whole life, played in big games in high school, logged 30 games in high major play, and survived a conference tournament; no, now is the time where suddenly he goes all lizard brain and will undoubtedly dribble off his foot and cry for his mother.

Like most tropes, this one has a bit of grounding in reality. Freshman guards do tend to struggle as they acclimate to college basketball. It can be a steep learning curve. Dwon Odom had games with six assists and games when he turned the ball over seven times. HE had games when scored 14 and games when he didn’t score at all. JP Macura had back to back conference games where he totaled 21 points, then took five games to reach that total again. It’s not easy, even for great players.

What does this have to do with Xavier this year? Well, the Musketeers return Desmond Claude to their backcourt. That’s it; just him. Coming alongside Claude will be Dailyn Swain, Trey Green, and Reid Ducharme. Green is an undersized point guard, Ducharme and Swain both stand 6-6 and profile more as wings. All three will have some heavy lifting to do.

Trey Green is a top 100 recruit despite standing only 5-10. He can also dunk despite standing only 5-10. While he’s not likely to baptize someone in traffic ala Edmond Sumner, that speaks to his athleticism. He’s also a shooter who landed on Jon Rothstein’s top 25 freshman for this season. (One assumes that Rothstein described him only in recycled cliche.) Xavier will lean more on his playmaking ability and his creation than his scoring. That said, he averaged 12.5 in the preseason scrimmages and was MVP of the Grind Session Tournament on the back of a game where he scored 30. He’s talented in every facet. Will he crumble like moldy cheese at the sight of a basketball court in March? Unlikely.

Dailyn Swain is also a top 100 recruit- get used to reading that with Sean Miller here- who slots in to the role as a ballhandling swing forward. If you can think of an all-something team in Ohio, Swain was on it last season. If Green is a sweet shooting distributor, Swain is the guy that he’s opening the floor for. Swain can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim and is developing a jumper that can keep teams honest. One scouting report has rather memorably called him “slippery” with the way he moves with the ball. If you’re looking for a Xavier comp, think Colby Jones, not Trevon Bluiett.

That brings us to Reid Ducharme. Ducharme is near as makes no difference a top 100 recruit. In most services he’s in the top 110. If you look at him and instantly stereotype him as a great shooter, well, you aren’t wrong. Ducharme’s sister was a Big East all-freshman team player at UConn in 21-22 before losing last season to injury. While she can also shoot, she lacks Reid’s ability to attack smaller defenders or get all the way to the rim off the bounce. Another thing that sets Ducharme apart is a competitive streak that can occasionally rub opponents the wrong way. Another wing in the Macura-Kunkel mold could be exactly what this team needs.

So what does all this mean? Des Claude is going to demand time in this backcourt, as will the two transfer guards. Trey Green, with his skill set as a pure point, figures to be the first knocking on the door for playing time. Shooters always play, to Reid Ducharme will get his chances to show he can make shots and stretch defenses. Dailyn Swain can just flat get his and has done a little bit of everything in the preseason.

But this is high major college basketball. It won’t all go swimmingly. Kam Craft lurks just off the edge, waiting for his chance to show that his high energy style is coupled with a good amount of skill. Things get very serious on November 13th. By that point the freshmen will have had chances to stuff the stats against RMU and Jacksonville. Watch who Sean Miller coaches up in those games before Purdue. That will be the first indication how this class is shaping up.