Monday, October 11, 1999
Prosser says Muskies are tourney team
Williams' knee, backup point among questions
BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Rebuilding? Skip Prosser won't even mention the word.
Settling? That's not in his vocabulary either.
This is going to be an NCAA team, the sixth-year Xavier men's basketball coach said.
This is going to be a very determined group of guys. They want to do what was not done last year.
XU is coming off a 25-11 season that ended with an NIT berth instead of a trip to the NCAA Tournament. That left a bad taste.
Now, the Musketeers minus their top three scorers and 60 percent of their offense from last season will try to get back to the NCAAs.
But first, some questions:
How is Darnell Williams?
Williams, a fifth-year senior who sat out last season with a knee injury, no longer shares the spotlight with guys named Lumpkin, Brown and Posey. This will be remembered as his team, Prosser said.
Williams will try to pick up where he left off after his junior season (1997-98) when he was XU's leading scorer. A smart, savvy player who can be a calming influence at the right time, Williams will be unafraid to show his emotions to fire up a teammate or get in his face if he makes a mistake.
He has lost the weight he picked up on the sideline last year, although he also lost some muscle. His jumper looks great. What is yet to be proven is if he will return from his injury with the same ability to slash to the basket.
Is he the key?
No, that would be Maurice McAfee, XU's only point guard. He must play smart, he must play well, and he must stay healthy. The 6-foot junior will not be looking over his shoulder. If McAfee has an up-and-down year, so will the Musketeers.
How much does the ineligibility of Lionel Chalmers and David Young hurt?
It hurts a lot Chalmers especially, because he was the only other true point guard. Both were expected to contribute right away. There is less backcourt depth now. Alvin Brown, brought in because of his shooting ability, is being asked to back up McAfee, as well as the shooting guard position. Prosser will have to be patient and let Brown play through some mistakes.
What about the newcomers?
Brandon McIntosh, from Roger Bacon High School, did not practice or play with the team last year, but was awarded a scholarship last spring after finishing the school year in good academic standing. Freshman David West and junior-college transfer Marcus Mason were recruited to help XU's inside game. Freshman Ryan Caldwell, from McNicholas High School, is a walk-on.
McIntosh is strong and athletic. He can shoot. He can jump. Now he has to learn how to fit into Xavier's system. He excelled in high school on raw talent. West and Mason are big bodies, and they will be in heated competition for playing time. Either or both could start.
What will practice be like?
Xavier has an abundance of inside players, and competition should be fierce. Sophomores Aaron Turner and Kevin Frey, last year's starting center and power forward, are not going to give up their spots without a battle. Senior Obi Harris has a sense of urgency with just one year left. Junior Reggie Butler yearns to be a contributor.
If you include West and Mason, that's six guys for two positions, and that doesn't include returning bulked-up walk-on James Baronas.
Who has been working hardest?
Everyone around the program raves about how Lloyd Price and Frey have attacked preseason conditioning and weight training. Price senses this team needs him to have a breakout year. Frey knows there is a great deal of competition for playing time and wants to be ready to help out wherever needed.
What are the intangibles?
Price's outside shot is a key. The sophomore has worked hard on his shooting. Now he has to gain confidence in game situations. He will be much more effective and will help take the pressure off Williams if his jumper falls.
The starting lineup?
McAfee at the point, Williams at shooting guard, Price at small forward. Prosser would probably like Turner or Frey to start at power forward, with the other coming off the bench. XU would prefer a bigger center than the 6-7 Turner, but either 6-10 Harris, 6-10 Butler, 6-9 Mason or even 6-8 West has got to win the job.
What are expectations?
The Sporting News ranks XU No. 51 in the country.
Temple is clearly the elite team in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but after that, it's anyone's guess who will emerge. In the weaker West Division, XU is still most people's favorite to win the title. One reason the Musketeers failed to get an NCAA berth last season was because of the low ratings of so many league teams; that may not be any better this season.
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