Can Harris be answer for XU?
May get start at center today

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When Obi Harris broke his right index finger in practice Nov. 1, it wasn't just a setback for the 6-foot-10 junior center. It was also a blow to the Xavier basketball team.

While not noted for his offensive abilities, the Musketeers were counting on Harris to provide some help defensively, especially at the back of their full-court press, where his shot-blocking capability would make opponents think twice before attacking the basket.

Well, it's time for Xavier to find out how much Harris can help. Now recovered from his injury, Harris may start tonight against Canisius College (7 p.m., Cincinnati Gardens).

CANISIUS at XU
• When: 7 p.m. today
• Where: Cincinnati Gardens (10,100)
• Records: Canisius 2-3;
Xavier 5-4
• TV: Channel 9
• Radio: WLW-AM (700)

BY THE NUMBERS
2: Canisius' Kevin Worley's national ranking in three-point shooting percentage (.700, 14-of-20)
116-173: Xavier's assists-to-turnovers
18.2: Average points per game for XU's bench
20.8: Average points per game for XU's bench last season (including James Posey's 15.2 as a reserve)

“We need him to play if he's going to be productive, and that's what we're going to have to find out in these next few games,” Xavier coach Skip Prosser said. “If he does well enough, then we'll keep him in there.”

The Musketeers (5-4) have three games in two weeks before Atlantic 10 Conference play begins, and it's clear they need help inside.

Harris' presence would allow 6-8 freshman Kevin Frey, who has started the past three games at center, to move to power forward. It lets 6-8 senior James Posey play small forward. Talented freshman Lloyd Price can come off the bench to possibly provide the spark Posey did the past two seasons as the sixth man.

Now is the time for Xavier to find out what lineup works. Canisius (2-3) is No.1 in the nation in three-point percentage as a team (.477), but is No. 270 in the latest Sagarin Ratings. Loyola Marymount (3-4), Monday night's opponent, is No.268.

Not having played since Dec.9 at Toledo has allowed Xavier some much-needed practice time. That's especially true for Harris, who has been playing catchup since getting his cast off Nov. 19.

It has taken him time to get back in shape, recapture his timing and footwork, and to better learn the plays.

“I'm definitely hungry,” Harris said. “I can't wait to get out there and extend my playing time. I'm excited and confident that I'll be fine.

“I think the main thing for me is to take advantage of the time that I'm given and just concentrate on executing the plays thoroughly, knowing where I'm at, knowing what my job is.”

Harris has appeared in the past two games, though sparingly. He played five first-half minutes against Purdue and four first-half minutes at Toledo. Prosser said that because the Musketeers were trailing in those games, he went with players with more experience.

In nine total minutes, Harris has one point, three rebounds, one block and three fouls.

“I think he's doing pretty well,” Prosser said. “He still has a ways to go. Unfortunately for him, you can't replace the practices that he missed, which were pretty important in terms of teaching things and fundamentals. But I think he's done a good job of trying to come back from it.”

Posey leads the team in rebounding (10.4 per game) and has twice as many (94) as any other player (Price is next with 44). Price leads in blocked shots (12).

Frey and Desmond Walker have helped in spots. Sophomore Reggie Butler, who started the first six games, has not played in the past three and is now working with the scout team in practice.

Harris said he has no problems catching and shooting the ball. Unless his finger is hit directly, he said, he is fine. He does not hesitate when asked if Xavier needshim on the court.

“We need each other,” Harris said. “There's no one man that's going to come in and turn everything around or anything like that. We just need to do things collectively.”

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