LeBron isn't the only basketball player making coming home to Ohio cool.
RaShid Gaston will be officially donning Xavier colors his senior year. After completing three years with Norfolk State, the 6'9 power forward from Warren, Ohio transferred to the Musketeers at the end of the 2014-15 season. Redshirting the 2015-16 season, the Ohio native partly delayed his homecoming debut, but all that practice is culminating soon.
Gaston did not take a passive route back home to Ohio; he put in some serious work while in Virginia. Capping his junior year with Norfolk State as Co-MVP of the team, Gaston averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, while also shooting 62.6% from the field.
Gaston's abilities are best highlighted close to the post. The sweeping forward was ranked second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for both offensive and defensive rebounds, in addition to being named MEAC's Defensive Player of the Week four times.
Contextualizing these honors becomes a little more fun when noting that of course Gaston is getting praised for his skills in the paint--throughout his time at Norfolk State, Gaston did not attempt a single shot for 3. The player seems to make a specialized, concentrated effort in beasting below the bucket.
In determining Gaston's role in Xavier's squad, however, it is noteworthy to mind the void recently left by Jalen Reynolds. Reynolds, a redshirt junior forward for the Musketeers, surprised many by forgoing his last season of NCAA eligibility in order to enter the NBA draft at the end of the 2015-16 season. Some experts note that Gaston could readily transition and fulfill the gap caused by Reynolds' exit.
Under-the-radar transfer: Xavier's RaShid Gaston. Averaged 15.3 PPG & 9.5 RPG at Norfolk State. Insurance if Jalen Reynolds doesn't return.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 10, 2016
With the departure of such a recognized player in the paint for Xavier, it is vital for Gaston to step up and secure needed offensive defense. Gaston is by no means lacking in terms of raw, physical power. The trick to further enhancing his game will be charming that physicality with precision. In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Gaston remarked that during his redshirt season he specifically hoped to improve his outside shooting and ball handling.
As for any side concerns regarding Gaston's transition from the MEAC to the Big East, coach Chris Mack stated that Gaston's "ability to rebound the ball and defend any position on the floor" are advantageous skills that will contribute to his ease in a new conference.
"New" being a relative term here. After all, Gaston is coming home.