By Andy Mac Williams, 10/21/2018

Travis Steele kidded about adding a couple minutes to Friday night's 10 minute mens' scrimmage at Cintas. He was worried about the offense after pounding home the importance of more aggressive defense since full practice began September 25th. Scoring was not a problem as Blue (Tyrique Jones, Paul Scruggs, Kyle Castlin, Dontarious James, Keonte Kennedy) beat White (Zach Hankins, Naji Marshall, Leighton Schrand, Ryan Welage, Elias Harden) 26-24. Point guard Quentin Gooden still has his left shoulder in a sling after dislocating it a week ago Thursday. Red shirt forward Myles Hansen (Columbia transfer) sat out with a jaw injury sustained a week ago Friday. Blue dominated early leading 14-6 with 3:55 left then the dam broke. White rallied and made it close at the end.

Overall, the passing and ball movement impressed me. Bounce passes to the post were a staple (very Villanova-esque). TEAM 97 is looking to make the extra pass. Backdoor lay-ups were available. Hankins and Tyrique pounded each other inside and finished around the rim. Ball movement was crisp and quick. Steele discourages mindless dribbling in practice. The mantra is " Don't pick-up your dribble unless you have an open teammate. When you do, get rid of it fast." Despite all the new pieces, TEAM 97 did that.

There was no SLAM DUNK competition. That's sort of yesterday's cool thing going the way of Dickie "V" and Midnight Madness plus dunking could lead to injury and XU can't afford major injury problems.


Paul Scruggs won the three point shooting competition making 14 of 25 over 60 seconds. Ryan Welage hit 13. Scruggs nailed two 3's in the scrimmage and ran the Blue point flawlessly (6 points-3 assists). He's made huge strides between freshman and sophomore years. It adds up to point guard 1 (Goodin) and 1A (Scruggs) for Xavier translating to nightmares for enemy defenses. Both are long and physical and in constant attack mode. They played a lot together last season. They may never come off the floor this year. Goodin's three point stroke has smoothed out considerably also.


Naji Marshall flew all over the place-scored and hit the floor (13 points-attacked the rim-drained threes-led vocally).


Frosh Dontarious James was the biggest surprise (10 points-3 rebounds-a nose for the basketball). Travis has been patient with him in practice teaching the defense and tolerating mistakes. James is physically ready to play high level D-1 hoops. He'll be needed to spell the two quality BIGS (Jones and Hankins). In packline defense the man in the paint is the key communicator because he sees the most from the back end. Can James fill that vital role as sort of middle linebacker? He sure can be a factor on the glass and at the offensive end.


Zack Hankins flashed smooth post moves (8 points) and cleaned the glass (6 rebounds). He's a quick explosive jumper and potentially Xavier's best rim protector since maybe Derrick Brown. Tyrique scored 8 with 6 boards. He's refined his low block moves playing daily against Hankins.


The Maui Classic presented Xavier with a customized Surfboard. X plays for the first time on Maui right before Thanksgiving (Game 1 Monday November 19th against Auburn-2:30PM EST-ESPN2).

They tapped the first keg of D'Artagnan Draft at Cintas (a special brew conjured up by Sam Adams). I'm told it will be available free for sampling at Xavier Media Day Tuesday October 30th. Kenny Frease might show up to put his personal stamp of approval or maybe J.P. Macura???


Xavier plays Ohio State in the NCAA Secret Scrimmage Saturday October 27th in Columbus for the second year in a row. Word is the NCAA will allow coaches to comment generally on the scrimmage but not use any statistics.

BIG EAST Media Day his Thursday, October 25th at MSG. BIG EAST will supply digital coverage of player and coach interviews. How will the Coaches and Media polls slot Xavier in the basically meaningless polls?? Will any Muskies make All Conference? Naji? Q? It's like starting line-ups. How cares who starts? It's who finishes and how they play. Same with All Conference Awards. Preseason?? Interesting but who cares? Postseason-Yes!! I'm interested!!

The public Exhibition Game is Thursday November 1st at Cintas against D-2 Kentucky Wesleyan (7PM Tip). Byron Larkin and I host a TEAM 97 Preview Monday November 5th at Delicio near campus at the corner of Dana and Montgomery. The Musketeer Club sponsors this. $10 for non-members-$5 for members. See the display add on this website. Xavier beat reporters Adam Baum (Enquirer) and Shannon Russell (The Athletic) will be in attendance.

The Opener is Tuesday November 6th (Election Night) 8:30 Tip on FS1 versus IUPUI (the Cougars from the Horizon League).


Brad Redford and I tape a podcast Thursday morning. It should be available on this web site and by Thursday night. Redford and I begin our "Talkin' Hoops" pregame shows at Duff's in Cintas with the IUPUI game. We will start at about 7:50PM. on 11-6.

The Crosstown Shootout is early again this season (Saturday afternoon December 8th-2PM in Clifton vs UC on ESPN2). The Bearcats play their Secret Scrimmage against Notre Dame Sunday October 28th in Indianapolis. Their exhibition is November 1st vs Tusculum. The Bearcats re-open Fifth-Third Arena Wednesday November 7th against Ohio State.


Travis Steele is colorful and in control on the practice floor.

On handling trapping defense:"We need poise-not panic."
On ball screen defense: "Be disruptive and physical-air tight-not loose-build walls around the ball."
On drills: "Do it right with energy or we'll repeat it."

The hardest working man in practice is Grad Assistant Sam Frayer (from Ohio U). He bangs against BIGS Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones in all shooting drills and wields the football blocking pads with vigor in the rebounding drills when the plastic bubble covers the basket. He's certainly earning his grad degree.

Dante Jackson may be thirty years old, but he's almost in game shape. Dante is very involved physically at practice and could run full court if bumps and bruises reduce player numbers during the season.

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