Sunday, January 13, 2002

SULLIVAN: Romain Sato


More than just a jump shooter

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Romain Sato's game is starting to take shape. The Xavier guard was as one-dimensional as a photograph last season — all jump shots, no nuance. Today, he has definition and depth, contours and curlicues.

map
        He has a range of skills instead of a single specialty.

        “When I got here,” Xavier coach Thad Matta said Saturday, “people who played against him said: "He has no mid-range game. You take away his 3-point shot and he's pretty much done.' That's something from Day1 we've talked about: You've got to be able to put it on the floor to score.”

        Matta's message must have made it through, for Sato is a vastly different and decidedly better player than he was last season. The gifted sophomore from the Central African Republic led the Musketeers with 20 points in their 72-62 conquest of Richmond Saturday at Cintas Center, and his shot selection included resounding dunks and driving layups as well as long-range rainbows.

        He has stopped surveying the basket and begun attacking it.

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Xavier's Romain Sato dunks over Richmond's Reggie Brown.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Eleven times last season, Sato made all of his field goals from 3-point range — or none at all. Never did he score more than three baskets from inside the arc. When his perimeter shots weren't sinking, Sato's Plan B was to look baffled.

Inconsistent play
               He was both Xavier's most intriguing player and its most inconsistent. One year ago today, Sato scored 31 points at Rhode Island. Four days earlier, he had been held to three points by Massachusetts. His jump shot had a textbook purity, but his alternative weapons were weak.

        Studying his inherited guard on tape, Matta observed that Sato tended to “float” around the 3-point line and that when he caught the ball without an open shot, he tended to pass it quickly rather than contemplate other options.

        Matta made it his mission to get Sato to shift gears and drive.

        “We need his aggressiveness,” Matta said. “It makes it a lot harder to trap. If he has the ability to put the ball on the floor, we're going to be playing some five-on-four.”

        “I think he always had (the ability to penetrate),” Xavier point guard Lionel Chalmers said of Sato. “I think it's a matter of his being confident. During the summer, that's all he was doing — driving, driving, driving.”

        Sato speaks six languages. It's reasonable to assume he's a quick study. It's plain that he's making remarkable progress. After 14 games, he has made more shots inside the 3-point arc than he sank all of last season.

        “Last year, my first year, was like, "Learn the game,' ” Sato said Saturday. “And I learned. Now I feel I can do more because it's my second year.”

Strong drive
               Last year, it would have been hard to imagine Sato doing as much as he did Saturday. With Xavier leading 61-59 and roughly 1 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation, Sato drove the baseline for an emphatic layup that supplied the Muskies the last points they would need.

        Sato has led the Muskies in scoring in each of their three Atlantic 10 games. If he can keep it up, Sato could lead opponents to redeploy their defense away from David West.

        “He's a huge threat for them,” Richmond coach John Beilein said.

        No longer a one-trick pony, Romain Sato is becoming a thoroughbred.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or tsullivan@enquirer.com.
       



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