Quick Mid-Summer Muskie Update!!
Andy Mac Williams,
This is the earliest I've ever written re a new Xavier basketball season. That might indicate my excitement about the potential of the Travis Steele Era. Joe Sunderman, Byron Larkin, Mike Sussli (former Xavier assistant-longtime Moeller assistant) watched TEAM 97 practice for an hour on the Cintas floor a week ago Monday. Ferris State transfer Zach Hankins is the real deal. He runs well-blocks shots-finishes around the rim and reminds me of Kevin Carr-a Skip Prosser recruit from the mid-1990's who outplayed Marcus Camby(UMass-Final 4-John Calipari) in an epic Cincinnati Gardens OT loss(78-74) Feb 4,1996.
The Muskies' core four players Juniors Quentin Gooden and Tyrique Jones and Sophomores Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs rival any group in the BIG EAST IMHO.
The three grad transfers(Hankins at the 5, Ryan Welage at 3 or 4 and Kyle Castlin at 2 or 3) fill holes nicely. Travis may add one more player before classes begin August 21st(ideally another immediately eligible BIG)??
The two Frosh Dontarius James and Keontae Kennedy will get their shot. Steele also has two preferred walk-ons-hold over PG Leighton Schrand who runs the scout team well and Columbia red shirt transfer Myles Hanson(6-6 and solid).
Let's not leave out Soph Elias Harden. The 6-5 Wing shooter has a metabolism akin to Edmund Sumner(super fast) so weight is hard to put on. He's trying to get stronger.
The NCAA now allows 8 hour/week of team activities(4 on the floor-basketball drills etc and 4 in conditioning). Players do individual shooting and play pick-up games also plus attend class in Summer School Session Two.
Team bonding will take place during the 5th annual Softball Game Tuesday July 31st-3PM-Hayden Field off Victory Parkway. Director of Basketball Operations Jeremy Growe looks to extend his record to 5-0. Quentin Gooden and Tyrique Jones are captains.
Dante Jackson was hired in early July as the third assistant coach. His Xavier teams made 4 NCAA trips including an Elite 8 and two Sweet 16s. Dante played his best against UC. He was a Dayton game MVP and helped engineer 7 NCAA victories. At age 30 he needs no coaching training wheels after stops at Air Force, Ohio U, NKU and Kent State.
All four coaches are on the road almost constantly during the July evaluation period-primarily watching high profile AAU tournaments.
The Maui Invitationall bracket came out last week. XU-Auburn is the first game Monday November 19th at the Lahaina Civic Center(9:30am Island time-2:30 EST-ESPN2).
Duke and San Diego State are on the Muskies' side of a loaded field. Duke has won 5 Maui Titles with a 16-0 record. Coach "K" shows up every fourth year like clockwork.
In the near future, I'll share Andy Mac's Maui travel tips with you. Outside of Delhi Township, Dent and Cleves, the "Valley Island" is my favorite slice of heaven on the planet. It's all good if you're making the trip to Maui, but there are a few hidden gems that I might introduce you to.
The Road to Hana is not one of those. Do not waste a precious day on that torturous drive!! More on Maui later. Softball is on deck Tuesday afternoon.