I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this, but Xavier hasn't played any basketball recently. That doesn't mean our boys aren't working on their games though. Tu and Big Kenny have proved that a summer of hard work can really pay dividends over the winter. This season, Xavier essentially brings back four players from last year's team. Here at the Examiner we'd like to humbly submit our suggestions for how the returning Musketeers can make the most of their summer vacations.
In 2008 ESPN scouted Kenny Frease as "an improving big man who is a hard worker with a great attitude." For the big man's first two seasons at X, there was precious little of that hard work on display. A freshman season that showed flashes of promise and the base for a competent career was lost in a sophomore season that showcased a body built by Golden Corral and a disturbing softness inside the paint. Coming into his junior season, Kenny Frease looked to be nothing more than a large person.
Last summer, though, things changed. Depending on which number you believe, Kenny dropped between 20 and 30 pounds to get down to a more manageable 265. Kenny also worked on his game, taking more shots and making obvious strides around the bucket. All the work paid off in his most impressive stat line to date. Frease averaged 11/7/1, raised his PPS to 1.3, played nearly as many minutes last year as he had the previous two combined, and raked down 20% of Xavier's rebounds.
So what does that leave Kenny to work on this summer? All that same stuff, again. Last year Kenny's minutes reached roughly the same level that Jason Love and Jamel McLean managed in their senior seasons. While that is a marked improvement, it must be said that the more Big Kenny is on the floor, the better the team is. With very little in the way of space-eating size coming in this year, it would be excellent to see Frease' fitness allow him to crack the 1000 minute mark for the first time in his career.
|Probably a defensive board|
The graduation of Jamel McLean leaves a hole in the team for many reasons, not the least of which is his offensive rebounding prowess. McLean's offensive rebound percentage (or the percentage of the available offensive rebounds he grabbed) was 15.4, good for 11th in the nation. Kenny's, on the other hand, was 8.1%, the same as sometimes motivated Jeff Robinson and 1.5% behind noted rebounding force Andrew Taylor. With McLean no longer around to pick up the slack, Robinson still an enigma, and Travis Taylor seeing his first court time in over a year, it will be incumbent on Frease to attack the offensive glass the same way he does the defensive.
The last thing Kenny has to work on is probably as much mental as physical. You see, all the fitness in the world won't help the big man's minutes if he doesn't find a way to impact every game. Much more quietly than Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease was the indicator of whether Xavier would win last year or not. In Xavier losses Kenny averaged 8.3/5.1 on 51% shooting, all markedly below the 12.8/7.7 and 56% he averaged in wins. Whether opposition game-planning or poor performance carries the blame, it's clear Big Kenny has to assert himself each and every game for the Musketeers to have success.
You'll know it's working when: Kenny averages 30+ minutes per game and grabs at least 2.5 offensive rebounds in that time. Frease managed 1.8 offensive boards per game last year, a big improvement. Another such jump would see commensurate increases to his other production. Stick backs are always there and offer Frease a way to effect the game when other factors conspire against him.
You should worry if you see: Kenny struggling to get up and down the court. If Frease cannot play the minutes Xavier needs from him, things will go badly. Even the best of guards require a foil inside, and Kenny is that for Tu and Mark Lyons. If the big man gets lazy again, Coach Chris Mack will have a problem.
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