Just like they Drew it up, a mature band of Muskies are panting for a deep March run
The cover of Xavier's 1957 media guide featured a picture of smiling, 5' 7" senior captain Jimmy Boothe beneath a headline asking SMALLEST ALL-AMERICA EVER? Boothe never received the honor, but 50 years later another 5' 7" Musketeer senior is an All-America candidate. Last year, in his first season at Xavier after transferring from Oklahoma, Drew Lavender emerged as one of the nation's savviest point guards, dishing out 50 assists against just eight turnovers during a nine-game winning streak in February and early March. He also had eight assists and three steals as Xavier extended top-seeded Ohio State in the NCAA tournament before losing 78-71 in overtime. "When he really came on and felt comfortable is when we really took off," says fourth-year coach Sean Miller.
Lavender had shown promise at Oklahoma, where he earned All-Big 12 honorable mention. However, after seeing his production drop, he decided to move closer to his hometown of Columbus and to a significantly smaller school.
It took some time for Lavender to become acclimated, but he found his groove in January, when, he says, "I started doing what I do best -- distribute the ball." Lavender led Xavier to a tie for the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, setting a conference best in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.86 to 1). "We expect him to pick up right where he left off," says Miller.
The Musketeers need that to happen because this season they tackle a tough nonconference schedule. Xavier also lost three key seniors from last season -- forwards Justin Doellman, Justin Cage and Brandon Cole. However, with a senior nucleus of Lavender, guard Stanley Burrell and forward Josh Duncan, and the addition of high-scoring junior transfer C.J. Anderson, the Muskies are banking on their season's lasting at least one weekend longer. "It was tough sitting there and thinking, Man, we're about to go to the Sweet 16, and then boom, have that taken away," Burrell says of last year's loss to the Buckeyes, in which Xavier led by nine with 2:54 to go in regulation. "If we get in a position like that again, we want to finish it." Expect Lavender to steer them toward that destination. -- Stewart Mandel
Issue date: November 19, 2007