By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The great thing about sports is there's always next year, but Xavier's "next year" is missing a big piece of this year: David West
West took Xavier to new heights during his four years, including a best-ever No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, two straight Atlantic 10 regular-season titles as well as a conference tournament championship, 52 wins the last two years and the best season-ending national ranking this season at No. 12.
Monday, he added another award when Basketball Times magazine named him its player of the year.
The All-American will take his game to the pro level next season, and for the first time since 2000 someone else will lead Xavier in rebounding, scoring and motivation.
West was the most vocal on the court of all Xavier players, and his leadership in that sense will be missed. Left to fill that void are Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers, the two returning players with the most experience.
Two other returning starters, junior Anthony Myles at center and Dedrick Finn, a freshman point guard this season, will join them.
Normally, a Top 25 team returning four starters would be a lock to start the next season ranked in the polls.
But Xavier's ability to stay in the rankings and on top of the Atlantic 10, and perhaps make that elusive NCAA run, will hinge on how well XU adjusts to playing without West.
One change: Instead of having a national player of the year in the post, Xavier will have to strike from the perimeter.
"Romain and Lionel will be our senior guards," said Xavier associate head coach Sean Miller. "They will have big leadership roles. That's where our experience and a lot of productivity will be."
Chalmers will earn a fifth year of eligibility because he sat out his first year as a partial qualifier.
Miller pointed to Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas, the senior Maryland guards who helped end Xavier's season Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, as an example of what Sato and Finn could be next season.
Sato was a first-team A-10 selection this season, averaging 18.1 points and 7.1 rebounds. He will likely be an All-America candidate next season. After Sunday's loss, Sato emphasized that Xavier must learn how to get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. XU's lone regional semifinal appearance was in 1990.
Finn's maturation as a consistent floor leader will be important for Xavier to take that next step. He showed signs of the necessary toughness at times this season - such as scoring seven overtime points at Saint Joseph's - but often deferred to West, Chalmers or Sato in pressure situations.
Myles will get help next year from freshman Will Caudle.
XU's projected 2003-04 roster
|Player|| Ht.|| Yr.|| PPG || Hometown (High school/JC)|
|Lionel Chalmers|| 6-0|| Sr.|| 12.0|| Albany, N.Y. (Albany)|
|Dedrick Finn|| 6-1|| So.|| 7.6|| Newburgh, Ind. (Castle)|
|Angelo Smith|| 6-8|| So.|| 1.3 || Indianapolis (Lawrence North)|
|Boubacar Coly|| 6-8|| Fr.||N/A|| Laurinburg, N.C. (Laurinburg Institute)|
|Justin Cage|| 6-5|| Fr.||N/A|| Indianapolis (Pike)|
|Brandon Cole|| 6-8|| Fr.|| redshirt || Richton Park, Ill. (Rich South)|
|Anthony Myles|| 6-9|| Sr.|| 10.2 || Chicago, Ill. (Olney College)|
|Will Caudle|| 6-9|| So.|| 3.7|| Indianapolis (Warren Central)|
|Keenan Christiansen|| 6-4|| So.|| 1.8 || Greenville, Penn. (Mercersburg)|
|Justin Doellman|| 6-8|| Fr.||N/A|| Ryle, Ky. (Ryle)|
|Robert Barker|| 6-5|| Fr.||N/A|| Greensburg, Ind (Greensburg)|
|Romain Sato|| 6-5|| Sr.|| 18.1 || Dayton (Dayton Christian)|
|Keith Jackson|| 6-5|| Jr.|| 5.0|| Cincinnati (Purcell Marian)|
|Tom Compton|| 6-11|| Sr.|| 0.1 || Cincinnati (St. Xavier)|
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