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The dichotomy of Des Claude

Des Claude has been better than he was last year and not good enough for this team.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Villanova
This resulted in a missed layup
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine, just for a moment, you are Des Claude. You’re a preternaturally gifted 6-6, 203 force of physical nature. You’re strong, fast, and all your connective tissue is still at least a decade from hurting when you wake up. You’re one of the best basketball players in the country, occupying a slot probably in the top 500 in a nation of 332 million. Almost anywhere in the real world you go, you’re the best player there.

You’re also the lone remaining player from a Sweet 16 team last season. Your friends have moved on, the other returning guy is redshirting, and the two players everyone was counting on to carry the load are hurt. You now play with two guys used to being the main option, three guys who don’t speak English as their first language, and a guy who was a track athlete three years ago. You are, functionally, the only Xavier player any casual fan has ever heard of.

Des Claude finds himself in a strange position this year. He is averaging 15/5/4 on 42% shooting with a 13 point jump in his offensive efficiency. He’s shooting 15% better from the line and the same from the field. He has flipped a negative A/TO into a 21.7% assist rate and 14.9% turnover rate, great numbers for someone who handles the ball as much as he does. His usage rate is up 9% and his overall rebounding rate is up. In short, Des has been much, much better this season than he was last year. Two of his top comps are Colby Jones and Timmy Allen.

But there’s almost no question that Claude hasn’t been good enough this year. Last night was (hopefully) his nadir. He took an absolute rollicking from Coach Miller for a lazy defensive transition and got benched. He fouled a three point shooter, again, and gave up a four point play in a game that was decided by one point. And, of course, he had a shot to give Xavier the lead with 12 seconds left and missed a wide open right handed layup and he had an uncontested 15 footer to win the game as he got an unprecedented second bite at the apple. He missed that, too.

Ultimately Des’ 5-17 last night wasn’t really the issue. Had he gone 6-17, no one would care. Des, however, just can’t buy a bucket away from the rim this season. He’s taken 67 long jumpers and is shooting barely 40% on them. He’s shooting an appalling 22% behind the arc, worse than noted not sharpshooter Dayvion McKnight. That stands out on a team that is struggling to make buckets.

It also stands out because Des is recognizable. All Xavier fans know him and were expecting him to make a jump this season. He unquestionably has, but he’s developed into an above average player who would be an excellent support piece, not the star that some fans were expecting. If Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter were still here and hoovering rebounds and usage rates, Des’ 102 offensive efficiency wouldn’t stand out and the load on him wouldn’t be nearly so large.

That’s not reality, though. The simple fact is that Des Claude has gotten way better, but isn’t quite good enough to lift this team on his own yet. He’s a sophomore with a ton of potential and a great future ahead of him. He’s also not yet a star. It’s a difficult place for Des, and Xavier, to be.