As fall sports wrap up and the calendar flips to November, Saint Xavier’s winter seasons are just getting started. The women’s basketball program looks to defend its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) crown beginning on November 3, while the men kicked off its 2017-18 campaign on Saturday.
The men attempt to improve on last year’s 16-15 overall record (11-9 in conference) with a team that is returning eight players. Among them will be sophomore forward Jack Brody and senior guard Quinn Niego.
Last season, Niego led his team in minutes as well as scoring. The Chicago native averaged a team-leading 18.6 points-per-game, 7.5 rebounds-per-game, and 3.3 assists-per-game. His effort rewarded him with an Honorable Mention to the NAIA Division II All America Team.
Meanwhile, as a freshman, Brody solidified himself as a blossoming star. The 6’5” guard from Lockport did not miss a game and frequently impressed coaches, teammates, and fans with his athleticism, sharp shooting and physicality.
Brody was second on the team in minutes played and scoring. He also averaged close to a block-per-game, which led the Cougars.
Niego and Brody are clearly two game-changing players Saint Xavier will count on to win games. However, much of the success the Cougars saw last season was a result of its depth.
Returners Niko Cahue, Kevin Fervil, Jared Jones, Jacob Strong, Lucas Daurer, and Tyler Diehl each logged valuable minutes in multiple competitive affairs. The group got a chance to showcase their talent in the first regular season game of the year on Saturday, October 28 against No. 9 Indiana University East.
The Cougars battled and revealed they belonged on the same floor as a top-10 team in the NAIA. After a Brody layup that put his team up 82-80 with one minute left, the Red Wolves converted on back-to-back trips to the free throw line and handed Saint Xavier its first loss of the year, 84-82.
Jones, who was among the best in the NAIA with a 52.7 three-point field goal percentage, led the Cougars on Saturday with 17 points. Niego was 5-of-10 from the field and finished with 13 points, while transfer senior Kyle Tackett provided 12 points off the bench.
If trends continue from last season for the men, head coach Tom O’Malley will likely implement a deep field of depth. On Saturday, 11 Cougars played in the contest.
Saint Xavier may have suffered a defeat on opening night, but there are clear signs that this team has the ability to be a legitimate contender in the CCAC this season. One area of concern, though, lies within the front court.
Last year, O’Malley’s group dealt with an inconsistent rotation at center throughout the majority of their 31-game schedule. Early on, freshman Keating Rombach looked to be the man in the middle, but quickly lost playing time near the tail-end of the first half.
Now that Rombach transferred, there is an open competition for minutes between five big men. Kevin Fervil started at center and made the most out of his 10 minutes of playing time shooting 4-of-6 from the field.
Cahue, meanwhile, logged 14 minutes and finished with four points and two rebounds. In the outset, it appears Fervil and Cahue appear to be the first option, but it is apparent the Cougars are willing to play smaller with non-traditional centers at the five spot.
Expectations are reasonably high for a talented Saint Xavier men’s basketball roster in 2017-18. The next home game for the men will be on Tuesday, November 3 against York College at 7:00 PM.
The broadcast can be heard on WXAV 88.3 FM and wxav.com.