Wednesday, February 24, 1999

Xavier's seniors take bow

Players raised team's profile

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It is time for the home fans to say goodbye to what will go down as one of the most important senior classes in Xavier history.

        Lenny Brown, Gary Lumpkin and James Posey play their final game at the Cincinnati Gardens tonight against Dayton.

        Their class, which included injured senior Darnell Williams and two players who transfered (Leo Murray and Richie Sutherland), arrived in 1995 with the task of leading Xavier into the Atlantic 10 Conference from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

• 7th on all-time scoring list (1,703)
• 1st in career three-point field goals (206)
• 2nd in career three-point attempts (569)
• 74 three-pointers are three shy of single-season record
• 1st in career steals (227)
• School-record 81 steals in one season (1997-98)
• Has started 103 consecutive games
• Career high: 31 points vs. Fordham and Rhode Island

• 11th on all-time scoring list (1,417)
• 2nd in career three-point field goals (202)
• 1st in career three-point attempts (589)
• Has led XU in assists four consecutive seasons
• Has 434 career assists
• Has started 109 consecutive games
• Career high of 31 points vs. George Washington (last season)

• 18th on all-time scoring list (1,279)
• 27 career double-doubles
• XU-record 31 consecutive free throws
• 76 steals are five shy of single-season record
• Gold medalist in 1998 Goodwill Games
• Two-time Atlantic 10 Sixth Man Award winner
• Named Most Outstanding Player at 1998 A-10 tournament
• Career high: 32 points vs. Dayton (this season)

        It was major step forward for the program. XU coach Skip Prosser, putting together his first recruiting class, was looking for a few good men to compete with teams like Temple and Massachusetts, which were trying to contend for a national championship.

        “I knew at the time this was really an important class,” Prosser said. “They bought into it when there were a lot of hopes and question marks.

        “Probably in terms of positive national exposure, these guys certainly can take their place among the best classes of guys we've had here.”

        Lumpkin said the first year, Xavier was just trying to be competitive. After that, the players felt they could win in their new league.

        Said Brown: “I don't think any of us knew what we were going into. We didn't know we would make such an immediate impact ... we didn't know we were going to bring it along this far.”

        After finishing 13-15, 8-8 in the conference in their first year, XU has at least been tied at the top of the West Division three straight seasons.

        “We sort of got ourselves over the hump and into the national spotlight,” Posey said. “I think that's what we had in our minds coming to Xavier, taking the program to a different level.

        “It's going to be weird. Things are just changing. For it to be my last game here, it doesn't seem possible.... It's been a dream.”

        Posey was academically ineligible as a freshman, but made a huge impact the past three seasons.

        He has been a hard worker and consummate team player, coming off the bench for two seasons because Prosser thought that was best for the team. Posey said he appreciates the support he's had from fans, especially Posey's Posse.

        “They made me want to go out here and do the little extra things so I wouldn't let them down,” he said.

        Now he is headed for an NBA career, perhaps as a first-round draft pick. His parents, James Sr. and Rosetta Moore, will be at tonight's game.

        “I knew I was going to have to come in and work for everything,” Posey said. “... When I'm on the court, I'm just in a different frame of mind. I'm having fun and working hard so I can't question myself at the end.”

        Jerina Brown has never seen her son Lenny play at the Gardens. Tonight she is expected to attend.

        Brown, a three-year captain, has been Xavier's warrior on the court for four years. Prosser has said numerous times that Brown is the player who gives Xavier courage. He will always be remembered for his game-winning shot against Cincinnati in November 1996.

        “It's going to be emotional because my mom's going to be here and it's going to mean a lot to her, too,” Brown said. “It's going to be special.

        “For me personally ... being on schedule on graduate, that's more amazing. I always thought if I was given a chance to play basketball, I could show that I could compete anywhere.”

        Lumpkin's mother, Peggie, will be attending only her second XU game at the Gardens; the first was earlier this season against Miami. Gary's five siblings will sing the national anthem tonight.

        For four years, Prosser has entrusted his team to Lumpkin as his point guard. Though he has had ups and downs during the past two seasons, one of Prosser's oft-used quotes about Lumpkin speaks volumes: “He's a great player, and he's an even better person.”

        “Walking off the court (after the game), it's going to be tough,” Lumpkin said. “I might shed a tear or whatever. But life goes on.

        “It should be fun. I think it's going to be a little sad also. I don't think there's going to be any feeling like it. It seems like just yesterday all this stuff started and now it's coming to an end. It's kind of overwhelming. It was all worth it, I'll say that.”

        Prosser tries to remain stoic for events such as this. He said he has been a part of about 20 Senior Nights in his coaching career. He has helped coach five former Musketeers in the NBA right now and several others who have played overseas.

        Still, he can't deny tonight will be special. He is most proud that all three outgoing seniors, and Williams, will receive their diplomas in May.

        “While it's a bittersweet day and it's a bit melancholy, you're happy for them,” Prosser said.

        “It affects you, but the thing you know is these guys, like the vast percentage of guys, will keep coming back. It's not like you're saying goodbye. They'll be back. I just hope that they feel good about their experience here and that they've gotten as good as they've given.”

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