Sunday, March 18, 2001

Expectations grow for Xavier

Prosser calls return to NCAAs 'important'

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The last act of this Xavier season was a calendar check. It left David West stewing, for his next game isn't for eight months.

        “It's a long way from now,” the sophomore center said after Friday's season-ending loss to Notre Dame. “But being (in the NCAA Tournament) gives me so much incentive. When that final buzzer sounded, I said, "We've got to get back here.'”

        Whether this season's glass was half-full (NCAA bid, 21-5 start) or half-empty (0-3 finish) depends on the perspective. Surely, it beat back-to-back NIT trips. Just as surely, higher expectations await.

        “The bar has to be higher,” coach Skip Prosser said. “It's important for us to get back to the (NCAA) Tournament. It helps that our guys have now been there, because the experience is really important.”

        Xavier (21-8) will return five of its top six scorers. It had one of the youngest starting lineups in this tournament. Counting letters earned - one for a freshman, four for a senior - XU totaled 13; just 11 tourney teams had fewer.

        XU will lose leadership in Maurice McAfee (9.5 ppg), who tied the school record with 126 games, though sophomore Lionel Chalmers (8.9 ppg) seems a capable replacement at point guard.

        The other starters return, as does 83 percent of the scoring. The only hole is a backup post player to replace senior Reggie Butler. XU has one scholarship left and will spend it on a big man.

        “We need another forward; that's crucial,” Prosser said. “But we're pleased with the three players we've signed. And with six of our top eight back, we're obviously optimistic.”

        Keith Jackson, a 6-foot-5 swingman from Purcell Marian, could back up small forward Lloyd Price. Will Caudle, a 6-9 forward from Indianapolis Warren Central, will audition for a backup role inside. Colorado native Jaison Williams will back up Chalmers.

        Anthony Coleman, a 6-11 forward who redshirted this season to bulk up, also will compete for playing time in the post.

        XU excelled this season in developing its defense, which allowed just 40.6-percent shooting, and in establishing West (17.8 ppg) as a low-post presence.

        But overall, the offense was dismal. XU had its worst field-goal shooting (42.7 percent) in 36 seasons, its worst 3-point shooting (30.3 percent) in the 15 seasons of the shot and its lowest scoring average (73.4 ppg) in 16 seasons.

        “I don't think we got enough good shots,” Prosser said. “Our 3-point shooting was horrific. We need to run our offense better.”

        Keys next season could be Price (9.2 ppg) and Kevin Frey (11.4), who will be seniors, gaining consistency and becoming leaders.

        “Their responsibilities will be immense,” Prosser said. “How they respond will be crucial.”

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