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The continued (almost) excellence of Desmond Claude

Xavier’s sophomore guard has been great in all but one aspect this year.

Villanova v Xavier Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The last two minutes of the game last night showed the dichotomy of Desmond Claude. With 2:35 to go, Des worked off a screen at the top of the key, got to his right hand, and powered his way to a layup that gave Xavier a four point lead in a desperately close game. Less than two minutes later, Des shot his seventh three of the game. Like all but one of the previous six, it missed.

Des Claude is having a great sophomore season. He’s averaging 16/4.6/3.6 and has seen his offensive efficiency jump 16 points even as his usage rate has increased from 15% to 25%. He’s on the ball more and using it better than he did as a freshman. Powerfully built and quick, he’s becoming a very good defender as well. There should be almost no reason to think that Des is anything but excellent.

But there is. Des, you see, shoots a lot of threes. He’s third on the team in attempts, trailing only Trey Green (34.8%) and Quincy Olivari (45%). He’s only making 21.7% of those shots, though. In conference play he’s shooting 20.5%. Since the Providence game he’s shooting 3-29 behind the arc. We can keep going here, but you likely get the point. Des Claude is an awful three point shooter.

Which is too bad, because he’s been excellent everywhere else. He’s shooting a big’s percentage (57.3%) at the rim, he’s third on the team on two point jumper percentage, and he’s shooting 77.6% at the line with a jump to 84.8% in conference play. Des is ninth in the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, turns the ball over only 13.1% of the time he uses it, is top 400 in the nation in assist rate, and does all that while playing the most minutes on the team.

Des has to keep shooting some threes just to keep defenses honest. He can’t get to that absolutely dominant right hand if his defender is sitting six feet off of him. (Sometimes he still manages to, which is incredible.) Des has also shown stretches where he can knock down the three. He shot 8-19 in conference play last year. He had a four game stretch this year when he went 5-11 and started the season 5-13. That all speaks to a player capable of at least mediocre outside shooting. Unfortunately, Des can’t keep it going.

Desmond Claude can be a frustrating player. He’s occasionally dominant, always willing to step up, a good defender, and one of the safest players in the conference with the ball in his hands. He’s also undermining some of that excellence with his frankly awful three point shooting. It’s scary to imagine how could he would be if that jumper gets falling. If it does, Xavier, and their excellent sophomore, become a real force.