Coming off a 25-9 season, in which the Musketeers were a few quality minutes away from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, things are looking good for Cincinnati's top program. Xavier returns three of its five leading scorers, brings in a top transfer in CJ Anderson, and also adds one of the A-10's best recruits. All of this added up to a long-term extension for coach Sean Miller, who took some time to answer questions for CHN:
Based on what you saw last year, what's the biggest improvement your team needs
to get to the next level?
“We lost three
important players and leaders from last year's team. Each season begins a new
journey and roles change, players change and new circumstances always seem to
arise. I am anxious to watch our new senior class emerge as leaders. Basketball
is the ultimate team sport. A team that competes, practices hard everyday
regardless of circumstance, is unselfish, is totally committed to being a great
defensive team - all begins with the tone set by it's leaders. In our case it
falls on Drew, Stanley, and Josh. They have to take total responsibility for our
disposition and identity. I am confident that they will do this…One consistent
theme with championship teams and teams that advance in tournament play, is that
they have exceptional play from the point guard position. A year ago when Drew
Lavender (an All-America candidate and Bob Cousy Award candidate for the
nation’s top point guard) came into his own our entire team benefited because he
makes the game easier for his teammates. Drew has had an excellent off season
and we are expecting him to have an outstanding senior year. He is a special
CHN) Are you settled with your starting lineup? Expect any particular battles for the open spots?
“We like to play nine or ten players every game. Depth is a significant advantage in college basketball. Every player on our team is an important ingredient to our success. Our off season, pre-season, and fall practices will determine a lot when it comes to defining roles on this year’s team. We should have great competition for playing time.”
CHN) It might be hard to pick out one, but who is the most talented player you've ever coached?
“Each player brings his own unique talents and abilities to the table.”
CHN) Talk about one or two guys that stand out as being underrated contributors to your team's success?
“One guy that fits that role for us is B.J. Raymond. B.J. has been invaluable to our success during his two years with us. He has clearly stepped up at some opportune times late in both his freshman and sophomore seasons to help us win important games. He has done a tremendous job of building up his body and becoming very physically strong. He has also become a very consistent three point shooter which offers us another dimension with him in the game along side our other proven three point threats.”
CHN) What do you think will be the hardest game on this year's schedule?
“We have a lot of games you can choose from here, including games against Tennessee, Virginia and Creighton at home in addition to Kansas State and possibly Indiana on neutral courts, at Auburn and at Arizona State in addition to a much-improved Atlantic 10 schedule. How do you pick one from that list?”
CHN) Realistically, what should Xavier fans and media expect from your team this year?
“High expectations are a part of Xavier Basketball. Our tradition allows people to expect us to win and have a good team. One important perspective of having "high expectations" is that our players know that it means something to be a Xavier Basketball player. However, there is always that "fine line" between winning and losing especially when you consider our losses of (Justin) Cage, (Justin) Doellman, and (Brandon) Cole - three terrific seniors from a year ago. Our team has worked together and very hard this off season and is excited about the challenges we will face this upcoming year. How all of this comes together will depend largely on the leadership of our seniors (Drew Lavender, Stanley Burrell and Josh Duncan), the togetherness of our team, and how individual players accept their roles.”