Monday, February 15, 1999

Posey runs ring around Owls

The Cincinnati Enquirer

James Posey saved Xavier in the second half.
(AP photo)

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        James Posey has changed his phone number. Agents can't reach him unless he wants them to. But they still slip their business cards beneath his door. When you are a 6-foot-8 senior with a Batman wingspan and you run the floor like a leopard, this is what happens.

        Posey avoids the agents, and the NBA scouts who started coming to see him play last year. He doesn't know where the scouts are, but he can feel their presence in the stands. It can be a load on his mind.

        The best thing to do is to play. This is what everyone has told him. Coach, teammates, parents. Just play.

        Posey gave them all an eyeful Sunday. There were times in the second half when you thought he was the only Xavier player on the floor. For about 12 minutes, Posey played as well as a college kid can. It was a good thing for the Musketeers, who needed all of James Posey to beat Temple. Every last bit.

Meaningful praise
        “I don't know of anybody in the country that plays any better from both ends of the floor,” decided Owls coach John Chaney, who should know. Chaney has coached Temple 27 years and for all of them, his team has played a who's who schedule.

        They've played Stanford, Indiana and Michigan State this year. You guess Chaney would schedule a doubleheader against Duke and Connecticut if he could work it out.

        When Chaney says Posey “has a science in his head that tells him where he needs to be. There are very few players in the country like that,” you take him at his word.

        Until Posey decided he'd seen enough, the Owls were strangling Xavier. That's what Temple does. They play a confounding zone. They're patient. Imagine that. Kids. Patient.

        They treat each possession like a rare jewel. It drives opponents nuts. When Temple is playing well and you're not, it's like watching a boa constrictor digest a mouse.

        Beating the Owls can be a matter of will. Posey imposed his on them in the second half. “When we needed a steal, he came through,” said Maurice McAfee. “When we needed a blocked shot, he came through.” Posey “fills in our gaps,” McAfee said.

Carrying the load
        With 15:17 to play, Posey made a steal off the press and dunked. Then he hit a three-pointer from the left baseline. He took a charge that led to two free throws. He hit another three, this one from the right side. Xavier led 56-50 by then, with 3:47 left. To make it official, Posey blocked two shots in the last 30 seconds.

        On an afternoon when Xavier's two senior guards shot a woeful 2-for-19, Posey stretched his talents to the edge and won the ballgame with an NBA-like line: 21 points, six blocks, five rebounds and three assists.

        In a game where all of Xavier's deficiencies were there for a national TV audience to see — inconsistent play from Gary Lumpkin and Lenny Brown, inexperience in the low post, lack of a half-court offense — Posey showed everyone why the Muskies can still make you watch.

        He took the game and made it his. “Playing on TV, you got to look forward to that,” he said.

        The Muskies needed this win badly. They needed to win friends and influence people. They needed a win to make the NCAA selection committee look at them without wincing. Before Sunday, X's best win was against George Washington. This one gave them some breathing room. Maybe it did the same for Posey.

        “It was exciting at first,” he says of the flattery from agents. “I was thinking about it a lot. I wasn't able to concentrate. I could have listened to all of them,” Posey says, “but I wouldn't be the same.”

        So he stopped listening. Now, he just plays.

        The show he put on Sunday spoke volumes. It was eloquent enough.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.