BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
There is little question that how well guards Gary Lumpkin and Lenny Brown play goes a long way toward how successful the Xavier basketball team is.
After stellar sophomore seasons, the two seniors from Delaware -- grade school, then high school teammates -- had some ups and downs last season.
Their thoughts on 1997-98:
Lumpkin: "I had good and bad, just like any person has in a season. I was trying to look at the positives more than anything. I think I had a pretty decent year overall despite the stats."
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Brown: "I think I had a terrible year. I could've been a whole lot better probably if I would've shot better and had fewer turnovers."
Though James Posey has improved his outside shooting, and some younger players should be able to contribute with perimeter scoring this season, there is something to be said for Brown and Lumpkin shooting with consistency.
Check out these numbers from the past two seasons:
"I'm not putting all the pressure on myself, but coach says normally when the point guard plays well, the whole team plays well," Lumpkin said. "That won't ever change. If I have a really good year, things will go as planned. I don't really look at it as all on my shoulders, but I think there's always something I can do to help the team out."
- In the 19 games Brown and Lumpkin combined to shoot 50 percent or better, Xavier was 18-1.
- In the 23 games they shot less than 40 percent together, XU was 13-10.
- When Lumpkin or Brown scored 20 points or more, Xavier was 15-4, and the only times they both scored 20 the same night XU was 2-0.
- In the team's 14 losses, seven times either Lumpkin or Brown was held to single-digit scoring, and the only game they both were in single digits, the Musketeers lost (at Rhode Island).
- Lumpkin and Brown, first-team all-Atlantic 10 picks as sophomores, combined for 20 points or more 14 times that season, and just seven times last year.
Said Brown: "You never stop working. I still work on my jump shot. I still work on all the things that will make me a better player. Personally, I don't have anything I want to do. If we win, that's good enough."
A couple happy Musketeers this week were New York natives Darnell Williams and Obi Harris, longtime New York Yankee fans. "Greatest team ever," Williams said of the World Series champs.
Though he's out recovering from knee surgery, Williams has been at practice every day, cheering on teammates and helping out with drills as often as possible.
While working on the full-court press the second day of practice, sophomore center Reggie Butler -- the biggest player on the team at 6-foot-10, 255 pounds -- stepped in front of his "opponent" and stole a pass at midcourt. The sophomore center then dribbled all the way on the left side and laid the ball in on the right side. It was an impressive play. His teammates went nuts. Butler refused to crack a smile.
Former XU guard Michael Hawkins, who played for the United States this past summer in the World Championships, will report to the Rockford Lightning's CBA camp Thursday.