There is not a player more valuable to his team in the Big East Conference next year then Matt Stainbrook. The Xavier Musketeers big man is coming off a junior season where he was named Honorable Mention All-Big East, fourth team All-Big East by collegesportsmaddness.com, and the starting center on the five member All-Big East team selected by collegehoopsdaily.com. He put up averages of 10.6 points (25th in the Big East), 7.4 rebounds (5th in the Big East), 0.9 blocks (11th in the Big East), and a field goal percentage of .556 (2nd in the Big East). He had 10 double-digit rebounding games and 6 double-doubles, including four games with 10 or more points and nine boards, and two games with 10 or more boards and nine points.
In case you cannot tell, Matthew Stainbrook was a beast last year. A beast with the nickname "Staintrain," given to him by the Xavier faithful because of his ability to score down low, grab tough rebounds, and for his game-to-game consistency. A beast who played quietly behind the likes of recent NBA draft pick Semaj Christon and transfer-to-SMU Justin Martin. Now there is no more Christon and Martin. This Xavier team is undoubtedly Stainbrook's. The Musketeers will be largely inexperienced next season bringing back only seven players – including Indiana transfer Remy Abell, who sat out all of last season. That means there are six freshmen joining the team for this upcoming year, a highly rated bunch they are (14th best class according to Rivals), but they are only freshmen.
Unlike the incoming freshmen for Xavier, Stainbrook was not a highly rated recruit. He was a mere one-star recruit whose only offer was from the Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference. His first college basketball game was against none other than Xavier. He scored 10 points that game and grabbed several boards. He went on to average 8.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game his freshman year, and 12 points and 6.8 rebonds per game his sophomore year. The kid could play, even if he didn’t look the part – all 6-foot-10 and 300 plus pounds at a point.
In fact. I remember watching him play in my junior year of high school on a nationally televised game on ESPN2 against Duke. The game was at Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, an intimidating environment for any player, let alone an odd looking one. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I do not think I had seen a more awkward looking basketball player in my life. Goggles, long hair, a tight-sleeved undershirt, and all of the weight. I enjoyed rooting for Stainbrook, and was pretty impressed by his array of post moves. He finished the game with 18 points and eight boards in a blowout of course, but an impressive stat line nonetheless.
Looking back on that Duke game it does not surprise me what kind of success Stainbrook had in his first year at Xavier and first year against consistent, good competition. The guy had the moves, the passing ability (third on the team in assists last year), but the X-factor was his weight and conditioning. He would not be where he is today if not for the transformation of his body. He has lost over 50 pounds since stepping foot on Xavier’s campus, in large part due to his diet and working his tail off. Per Shannon Russell, a Xavier beat writer, Stainbrook has trimmed his weight down recently to around 267 after weighing between 275 and 280 at the end of last season, and looks to be in the best shape he’s ever been in.
I do not have an ESPN Insider account, but was still able to read a few lines of what a recruiting analyst thought of him back in January 2010. "He has heavy feet and is a project but has the skills and could be productive at the low-level schools if he got into tip-top shape." This guy was correct about him having the skills, but way off about only being able to be productive at a low-level school. Stainbrook proved all the doubters wrong – including this guy - with his play last year in a high-level conference at a high-level school. Now it is Stainbrook’s time to shine in his last and final year. Will he be able to chug-a-chug-chug next years inexperienced Xavier team to a NCAA birth and possibly more? No one knows for sure, but Matt "The Staintrain" Stainbrook will do one thing: prove the doubters wrong once again.