This is the latest installment in our Frontcourt Preview Week. To see the entire 2013 Season Preview or just the Backcourt Preview Week, just follow the hotlinks.
Last year, the Xavier Musketeers spent significant time with Brad Redford and Erik Stenger on the floor. For a team once known for their speed and athletic ability, it was a bit of a let down. Even the efforts of Travis Taylor and Semaj Christon couldn't always shake the Musketeers out of their doldrums. This year, Xavier won't have that problem. Matt Stainbrook isn't bringing a lot of athleticism to the table, but Jalen Reynolds, Brandon Randolph, and Semaj all have no problem elevating, running, and generally doing the kind of things that leave you shaking your head.
To that trio, you can now add Kamall Richards. Listed at 6-6 and 210, Richards is thick and has the body to inflict a good deal of damage. What Coach Mack calls a "college ready physique" will help Richards when he has to drop into the post to cover some of the larger wings in the Big East. To go with that size, Richards brings an aggression and fearlessness when attacking the rim. Not just a slasher, Richards can also knock down outside shots when in rhythm. All that packaged together landed Richards on ESPN's top post-grad players list and an honorable mention spot on Big Apple Buckets list of Big East rookies too watch.
Of course it can't be all good news on Richards, because that's not the way basketball works. With the size and willingness to attack the basket comes the bane of many a good young player, the unwillingness to part with the ball. Richards can become so intent on scoring that he forgets that occasional pass can help advance the offense. Whether his ill-advised shots come from deep or from over-penetrating depends on the matchup. Both Adam Finkelstein of ESPN Recruiting and Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports have repeatedly commented on Richards overshooting.
Best case scenario: Richards contains his need to score and instead concentrates on fitting into the offense. He demonstrated during summer ball that he could rebound well for a 6-6 wing, so that will earn him more playing time. If he proves that he can defend up to the standard that Coach Mack demands, that playing time increases. Richards will provide occasional scoring outbursts and the occasional game where he seems to catch everything coming off the rim. Faced with a fight for playing time at a crowded position, Richards parlays those outbursts into 15-20 minutes a game and a solid 6/5/1 line.
Worst case scenario: It can be hard to see where Richards fits on this team. A wing, Richards will lose some time to guards when Xavier goes small. In a standard set, Richards will fight with Isaiah Philmore, Reynolds, James Farr, Erik Stenger, and Brandon Randolph for time. If Richards reacts to that battle for time by trying to score 25 in 10 minutes every time he plays, he'll lose time. If he reacts by focusing on offense instead of defense and rebounding, he'll lose time. It's not going to be an easy year for Kamall Richards, and he could make it more difficult on himself and suddenly find that Xavier is not South Kent at all.
Most likely scenario: The most likely scenario is that Kamall Richards fights his way past most, if not all, of his competition. Frankly, Richards is more talented than Farr and Stenger and should see more time than both. If the aggression that leads to overshooting can also lead to hustle and defensive intensity, this season goes well for the young man. I'm assuming that Coach Mack recruited him because he thinks it can. Call Richards good for 5/3/1 and a couple of games that are simply awe-inspiring.