TRAVIS STEELE ERA OFF TO FAST START!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier leadership (Greg Christopher, Father Graham, John Kucia) acted quickly and diligently and correctly IMHO promoting Travis Steele to Head Coach. Continuity is a good thing when you're looking to perpetuate and advance a highly productive entity like the Xavier basketball program and brand. Travis learned well, contributed and grew on the Muskie bench. It's his time to call the shots and he's ready to assume the role of CEO. He seemed at ease and composed and excited at his opening press conference. Steele appreciates XU basketball history and understands his role is to improve performance. That's what all his predecessors have done since Bob Staak ushered in the Modern Era of Xavier basketball back in 1979.
I like his concept of achieving the last 2% and completing the long climb to a Final Four and a National Championship. Travis may need help in time management and planning detail work, but he's up to speed on work ethic, enthusiasm, communication skills and basketball smarts. He identified Villanova as the BIG EAST and NCAA bar setter. His sights are riveted in overtaking the Wildcats. He's not intimidated. He has a plan and he's certainly motivated.
A large portion of the Xavier Basketball support staff remains in place and not headed to Louisville. Steele's relationship skills and Xavier's family atmosphere led some of the best in the business (Mario Mercurio, Jeremy Growe, Matt Jennings, Dave Fluker, Chris Barbour) to stay the course and help Travis move effectively onto TEAM 97.
The players are the most important factor obviously. We knew where they stood re the hiring of Travis Steele. Now their development can continue without interruption on the court and in the class room with the bulk of a great staff staying at Xavier enthusiastically.
TEAM 97 ROSTER:
Six current players are on board (Quentin Gooden, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Kaiser Gates, Tyrique Jones and Elias Harden). Incoming Frosh Dontarius James, Jake Walter and Keonte Kennedy will matriculate to XU.
Steele traveled to Big Rapids, Michigan on Thursday morning as the April signing period opened and obtained an important graduate transfer commitment from 6-10 255 pound Center Zach Hankins-soon to be a Ferris State University graduate. Hankins anchored FSU's 2018 NCAA Division II Championship Team (38-1 record finishing the season with 26 straight wins). He was selected D-2 National player of the Year averaging 15 PPG-10 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots.
Coaches Mack and Steele had been courting Hankins for a while. Zach picked Xavier over Michigan State, Ohio State and Texas Tech. The Muskies needed more post depth with the departure of Karem Canter and Seam O'Mara. We can now check that item on the "To Do" list!!
Hankins has already played a game at Cintas. Ferris State met XU in an exhibition game in early November 2015 when Zach was a Sophomore. Top D-2 players tend to perform well moving to the D-1 level. Witness Max Strus and his transition from Lewis University to DePaul last season(17PPG) with a 31 point performance against Xavier at Cintas. Hankins will have a better supporting cast at XU.
Xavier's track record with well vetted grad transfers is strong (Andre Walker-Vanderbilt-2011; Malcolm Bernard-Florida A&M-2016; Karem Kanter-Wisconsin Green Bay-2017). Toss in regular transfer home run players like Matt Stainbrook and Remy Abel and you have a successful recent track record with Travis Steele pivotal in that process. Don't rule out another TEAM 97 roster addition or two in the near future with three scholarships available.
At least two assistant coaching positions need to be filled. Travis will move quickly. His basketball networking ties are many fold. He knows what he wants.
There will be speed bumps and road blocks and set backs. There always are in the complicated and many faceted process of assembling a highly competitive Division I NCAA basketball team. Travis knows how to do it. He has the drive to complete the job and the resources to deploy to get that job done well. Stay thirsty and hungry Xavier Nation!! There are fun, winning, exciting days ahead!!!