The Xavier frontcourt got stronger on Tuesday as Kerem Kanter, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay transfer, chose the Musketeers over a slew of other interested teams, including Kansas, Michigan State, UConn, NC State, and Purdue, amongst others.
He is immediately eligible to play for Xavier next year, bringing an average of 11.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game this season to the Xavier lineup. With RaShid Gaston graduating, Kanter will immediately fill a need as a center in the Xavier lineup, as they currently only have Sean O’Mara to equal Kanter’s height (6’10”) and are otherwise still rather young in the frontcourt (O’Mara will be a senior, Kaiser Gates will be a junior but only stands 6’8”, and Tyrique Jones at 6’9” will only be a sophomore). The new recruits coming into the frontcourt are community college transfer forward Brady Ernst and incoming freshman Kentrevious Jones.
Furthermore, Kanter has a much more dynamic skill set than O’Mara. O’Mara is a traditional post player, usually playing back to the basket. He also only came on strong late in the year as a rim protector and did not average many points, rebounds, or blocks during the 2016-2017 season (6.1, 3.1, 0.3 respectively). Kaiser Gates, while more dynamic (averaging 1.2.-3.6 makes/attempts from 3) and athletic, only shot a combined 38% from the floor and averaged 5.8 points per game, despite averaging 4 rebounds per game. Tyrique Jones, while efficient (over 60% field goal percentage), only chipped in 4.2 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Kanter, meanwhile, is a fantastic combination of athletic and dynamic. He has the ability to run the floor, back down opponents, face up at close range and make moves, and step out to hit a jump shot, even shooting 35% from three (which isn’t ideal, but when you attempt 1.3 threes per game, it isn’t brutal). He has a good short-range jumper and can move his feet very well on both offense and defense. He’s a matchup nightmare with traditional post players because of his athleticism and ingenuity in the post. I could see him drawing a lot of fouls with his various post moves both backing down and facing up defenders. He only shoots free throws at a 60% clip, so there is room for improvement, but with the way college basketball is (5 fouls disqualifies, no reset of bonuses in the halves) I think he’ll be invaluable to taking contact from some of the elite big men in the Big East and putting them in foul trouble. He’ll be vital to the Musketeers and I could foresee him starting at the 5 for them.
It will be very exciting to watch Kanter in the Big East, as he’s said that he wants to test the NBA draft after this year. With the Big East being one of the best conferences in college basketball, littered with talented big men, he’ll get to face great competition night in and night out, and I think he’ll prove himself worthy of wearing the Xavier uniform.