The Xavier Musketeers enjoyed a multitude of success in the 2015-16 season. So much so that Team 94 likely put together one of the best years in the program’s history. Lots of their prosperity had to do with the play of their big men. Specifically, one would zero in on the duo of titans, i.e. James Farr and Jalen Reynolds.
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Farr and Reynolds provided solid defense down low and great rebounding too. They were a major reason why X was one of the best rebounding teams in the country a year ago, ranking highly in rebounding metrics and statistics across the board.
As the club barrels toward the start of the year, they are now without the services of Reynolds and Farr. Leaving for pro prospects and graduation were the reasons for the tandem’s departure from Cincinnati and it has left a pretty sizable hole down low. However as any coach would do, Chris Mack is well prepared to do battle without them. Even with Reynolds and Farr gone and big man Makinde London having flown the coop via transfer, X still has an assortment of big men to help fill the holes.
The conversation starts with the lone man standing from last year’s team: Sean O’Mara. O’Mara was part of what is now a very successful recruiting class for Mack and the X-Men back in 2014 that includes USA TODAY All-America selection Trevon Bluiett, Big East Sixth Man of the Year J.P. Macura and the ever-exciting and talented point guard Edmond Sumner who is poised to do big things after having a breakout year.
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O’Mara was used relatively sparingly in his freshman season but saw his minutes go up in his sophomore year. He made the most of it by posting relatively high eFG% and TS% numbers as any big man should do, both over the mark of 60 percent. With that said though, O’Mara hasn’t been brought through the woodshed quite yet. Often times he would log as many as 14 minutes, his season high against Auburn on December 19, or as few as two minutes which he had in Xavier’s Round of 64 victory vs. Weber State in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
A bigger role is likely to be on tap for O’Mara if his experience is valued. Whether or not he usurps incoming transfer RaShid Gaston though is the question. Gaston was a well-regarded player at Norfolk State and as our Tehr Umar writes, had his best success back to the basket.
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.
So, O’Mara and Gaston play with similar skillsets and will be competing for similar positions on the floor. That’s going to make things quite interesting. Much like Gaston, O’Mara isn’t much of an outside shooter at all. In fact, through two years of college basketball, the Illinois native has yet to attempt a 3-point shot. Considering X will have a few outside threats this season with Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis, JP Macura and Sumner still in the fold he likely won’t be asked to shoot from outside much. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt if he enhanced his game in that direction.
What’s certain for Sean O’Mara going into 2016 is that his role is likely to expand. How he uses that expansion is yet to be seen but could prove pivotal in helping him find a way to become a bigger piece of the puzzle for Team 95.