Monday, January 15, 2001

Sato showing glimpses of greatness

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Romain Sato.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        WASHINGTON — He hasn't dunked yet. Romain Sato's Xavier teammates keep reminding him of that, eager to see his 40-inch vertical leap unleashed.

        “We see it in practice, but we're waiting to see him explode on one in a game,” sophomore center David West said.

        Sato has played just 40 organized basketball games in his life - 25 high school contests last year, 15 as an XU freshman this winter - and yet it is no longer enough for him just to play well. He must be exciting. He must dominate.

        “He's potentially as good as any kid we've ever had,” XU assistant coach Dino Gaudio said.

        Jerry Doerger caught the clips Saturday of Sato's 31-point destruction of Rhode Island, and remembered how Sato willed Dayton Christian past his McNicholas team: 34 points, 15 rebounds, 10 blocks, three dunks, seven 3-pointers.

        “That was the best exhibition I'd ever seen by a high school player,” Doerger said. “I didn't see Michael Jordan when he was in high school, but Sato was the best player I've seen in my (34) years of coaching.”

        As a native of the Central African Republic, Sato has had more than the average share of adjusting to do as a college freshman. He continues to learn English, plus the finer points of the game, yet he remains the most friendly and humble Musketeer.

        Though he is the team's shooting guard, the most natural scoring position, Sato often must be coerced into shooting. Between a 19-point game against LaSalle and his breakout game Saturday, he took just five shots against Massachusetts, scoring only three points.

        “We vote all the time in practice when he passes up a shot: Who doesn't want Romain to shoot?” XU coach Skip Prosser said. “Nobody would ever dare put their hand up.

        “They're shocked when he misses in practice, because he has such a sweet stroke. They know how potentially good he can be. They want him to shoot the ball.”

        Sato is second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.7), and his .385 3-point shooting ranks third in the Atlantic 10. Having heeded the coaches' cries to turn up the defensive intensity, he now must get greedy on offense.

        “He's such a nice kid that it's almost like he needs to be a little nastier,” Gaudio said.

        Prosser said Sato's prescient play Saturday reflected the maturity Byron Larkin, Lenny Brown and Jamie Gladden had as freshmen. Those happen to be the Nos.1, 3 and 5 scorers, respectively, in XU history.

        “He's just a freshman in college. This is all new to him. I just want him to be the best Romain Sato he can be,” Prosser said.


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