Above the door leading into the Xavier locker room the word FAMILY is printed in blue letters. It is a reminder of the Musketeers' all-for-one attitude and has special meaning for James Posey. Three years ago Posey, with five other promising freshmen who had the campus buzzing, enrolled at Xavier, a 6,500-student Jesuit school in Cincinnati. A few days before practice was to begin, however, Posey found out that he had failed to gain a high enough ACT score to qualify for a scholarship and would have to sit out the 1995-96 season. Suddenly he felt he was outside the family.
That year Posey was depressed and tried to stay clear of his teammates during the season. He went to some home games but often left early. There were times when he didn't want to study, but he knew that his father, James, was working two jobs to help pay his $16,000 tuition. "Every day I thought of my parents," says Posey, a 6'8" junior forward. "I couldn't let them down."
The Musketeers struggled to a 13-15 record that year and not much was expected of them last season. But with a core of undersized players bolstered by the now eligible Posey, Xavier exceeded expectations, finishing 23-6 and winning the Atlantic 10 West Division. And Posey, who averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game coming off the bench, was named the conference's sixth man of the year.
Posey should continue in that role this season, and not much else will change for Xavier, which has its top six players back. Junior guards Lenny Brown (15.6 points a game) and Gary Lumpkin (14.7) have a cohesiveness that comes from seven years of playing together in junior high and high school as well as in college, and they'll direct a frontcourt anchored by 6' 8" senior center Torraye Braggs, who averaged 13.9 points in the Musketeers' neatly balanced attack.
"We're not going to get guys who are 6' 10" and can run like gazelles here, so we have to go out and play one way—hard," says coach Skip Prosser. "We go into almost every game with a height disadvantage, but my feeling is, if we can run and press, we'll be pretty hard to guard, too."
Maintaining its intensity shouldn't be a problem for Xavier, but the Musketeers must do a better job off the glass after having been outrebounded by an average of 6.7 a game last season. Expectations are at an alltime high for Xavier, which didn't lose two games in a row last year and was ranked as high as 13 in the AP poll—the loftiest in school history.
Prosser isn't the least bit worried that success has spoiled his Musketeers. "The strength of this team is its ability to fight and come together," says Prosser. "We can't afford to have a Benedict Arnold; everybody has to contribute for us to win."