Friday, November 02, 2001

Matta will use first exhibition to test talent

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier will take the basketball court tonight without Skip Prosser and, perhaps for an extensive period, with Alvin Brown. The two matters aren't unrelated.

  • When: 7:30 p.m. today
  • Where: Cintas Center
  • Tickets: All seats $10. Available at door.
  • TV/radio: None
  • Notable: This is EA's East team. It lost 81-63 Wednesday at Louisville and 68-64 at Tennessee on Thursday.
        Among the effects of XU's coaching change is the window of opportunity now open for every Musketeer. It won't take long for Thad Matta to conduct a casting call tonight — in the exhibition opener against the EA Sports All-Stars — for XU has just nine scholarship players.

        “I've got a great opportunity to contribute more,” said Brown, a fifth-year senior guard. “But really, we're going to need everybody.”

        The Cintas Center faithful will spend tonight sizing up Matta and his coaching tendencies. What they'll see is a disposition toward man-to-man defense; a patient, half-court offense; and nearly no use of a full-court press.

        They'll also see competition for playing time. David West, Kevin Frey, Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers are certain starters, but the small forward/third guard spot remains up for grabs, and competition could be keen for backup spots.

        “We're going to look at everybody equally and try to get a feel for who's improved the most,” Matta said. “You look at a guy like Alvin, in his fifth year, and he's got some things you can't teach.”

        Patience among them.

        Brown played in every game two seasons ago, averaging 17.8 minutes and 6.5 points, but fell off Prosser's depth chart last season. He averaged 9.5 minutes and 6.3 points the first four games, then appeared in just 15 of the remaining 25, averaging 3.5 minutes and 0.5 points.

        When Prosser took the Wake Forest job, Brown talked excitedly about a fresh start: “Considering my previous situation, I think it's very good for me. It gives me a big recharge.”

        Brown, a natural shooting guard, also has played point guard and “three” guard in practice. His strength is a quick-scoring ability, and he shot 52 percent from the field (13-of-25) last season.

        Brown completed his finance degree in May, and he could have finished basketball then. He elected to pursue a second degree in information systems and return for a final season.

        “I didn't want to stop playing,” he said. “I can bring leadership and experience. I'm going to give it all I have.”

        Matta said his players have been shooting well. That portends improvement over last winter, when XU had its worst field goal shooting (42.7 percent) in 36 seasons and its worst 3-point shooting (30.3 percent) ever.

        The player Matta has praised repeatedly is junior guard Dave Young, who's battling freshman Keith Jackson for the last starting spot.

        With XU's core of players intact, Matta will be the man under the microscope tonight. Well, not just tonight.

        “Comparisons (to Prosser) are going to be there all year,” Brown said. “But it's still basketball; we'll play hard and compete. That's what we'd do with any coach.”


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