Xavier Basketball 2017-2018 Preview
2016-17 Record: 24-14
Key Losses: Edmond Sumner, RaShid Gaston, Malcolm Bernard
Key Additions: Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Elias Harden, Jared Ridder, Kentravious Jones
The Musketeers had a surprisingly successful season last year, and looked to be tournament favorites, until the injury that ended senior Edmond Sumner’s season prematurely. Xavier still made the tournament though, via a play in game, and rode their momentum all the way to the Elite Eight. How will they look next season?
The losses hurt them. Sumner was an elite scorer who was selected by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Draft. RaShid Gaston was the best rebounder on the team, and Bernard was a defensive anchor and arguable the best shooter of the bunch.
But returning to the team are a few key pieces. Trevon Bluiett, the All-Big East first team selection, was one of the best scorers in the conference last season, averaging over 18 PPG. He too flirted with the NBA draft before deciding to return for his senior year. J.P. Macura, a volume shooter, will also be returning for his senior season. He averaged 14 PPG last year.
Big man Sean O’Mara will likely see most of the minutes at the center position next season, do to his size and soft touch around the rim.
Filling in with those key returners will be the best recruiting class in the Big East, and the 11th best in the nation, according to 247sports. Headlining the freshman class is Paul Scruggs, a point guard from Indiana who is ranked 29th overall in his class. Scruggs was recruited by the best of the best, including Louisville, Indiana, UConn, Ohio State, UNC, and Kentucky. His strength lies in his ability to get to the rim and his on-ball defense. That along with his size (6’4”, 200lbs) and athleticism makes him a tantalizing prospect, for college and NBA scouts alike. Scruggs should see immediate minutes at the point guard position.
Another top 100 recruit heading to Xavier is forward Naji Marshall. Recruited by Pitt, RIU, Maryland, and Virginia Tech, Marshall has great vision in the open court and is a smooth finisher around the basket. If he developes his jumpshot, Marshall could become one of the best players in the country in the coming years.
Finishing out the recruiting class are Elias Harden, Jared Ridder, and Kentravious Jones. Harden, a shooting guard who was recruited by Auburn and Ole Miss, has a strong mid range game. Ridder, a forward who chose Xavier over Arkansas, has a great outside touch and could help to space the floor in the Musketeer’s offense.
Kentravious Jones might be the most interesting prospect of them all. Standing at 6’10” and 280 lbs, he is a man among boys. The forward from Georgia has a great post up game, out of which he can get to the basket, pull up, or pass out of the post.
With all of these potential stars, the future is bright for the Xavier Musketeers.
Prospective starting lineup:
- Paul Scruggs
- Trevon Bluiett
- J.P. Macura
- Jared Ridder
- Sean O’Mara
Photo credit: ncaa.com