Lyons Out at Xavier

The top returning scorer from Xavier's Sweet 16 team, Mark Lyons, will not be returning for his final season of eligibility confirming information that first appeared on MusketeerReport.com's message boards.

Chris Mack announced the news through a release by Xavier on Monday.

"After our end of the season meeting with Mark it became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward," said Mack. "During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement. Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest. I wish Mark well."

Lyons averaged 15.1 points and 2.8 assists this year for Xavier. He was also their top 3-point threat, making the most threes on the team (58) while also shooting the highest percentage at 39.2 percent.

With Lyons leaving, Xavier's coaching staff now has another scholarship to work with for next year. That scholarship could be given to Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice, who is still deciding with Xavier and Illinois as his leaders. Rice, however, will not help fill the immediate scoring void left by Lyons for next year, as he would have to sit out per the NCAA transfer rule.

The departure also creates an opportunity for the young guard core that is crucial to Xavier's future success. With Dee Davis looking ready to make an impact, the staff will have plenty of minutes for the trio of him, Semaj Christon and Myles Davis to go along with senior Brad Redford at the two guard spots.

With the graduation of Tu Holloway, Lyons was going to be the vocal presence on the team with the credentials on the court to back it up. Though, the actual leadership role was more likely to fall on the shoulders of Isaiah Philmore and Dez Wells, who are natural leaders and upbeat presences in the locker room. While there's no one who can replace the experience and success on the court that Lyons takes with him, they aren't going to be left without a vocal leader because of his departure.

The bigger question that Lyons leaving creates is where Xavier's points will come from on offense. Lyons was about as close to a guaranteed 15 points per game average as you can get coming into this season, and it could have been 20 with all the shot attempts leaving with the graduation of Holloway and Frease. Xavier may consider some unsigned 2012 options, but at this point in the game there aren't any guys out there that are going to make up for Lyons' scoring as a freshman. It's more likely that they take a transfer with the open scholarship, which wouldn't provide them immediate help, but would likely be the best overall value. They could also decide to sit on the scholarship for one more year.

That means that Xavier is going to have to make up that scoring with the players they already have, and obviously it won't be one single player that replaces Lyons' output.

They should receive more scoring from the four position this year. Their fours had a pretty minimal effect on the offensive end last season, so it's unlikely they'll do worse with the addition of Isaiah Philmore, who is more of an offensive-minded forward, wired to score.

For Xavier to be an NCAA Tournament contender once again, it's a necessity that Dez Wells makes the kind of strides he's capable of. He will likely have to lead the team in scoring, which he is capable of doing, but his skills will have to continue to develop.

This also means that they'll need one of the three young guards - Dee Davis, Semaj Christon or Myles Davis - to step up and be ready to score right away. Dee Davis has been really impressive in early off-season open gyms, though he's not going to score a ton. Christon will most likely make the biggest impact, as he has the ability to get to into the lane at will and can finish at the rim. He also creates points in transition with his defense. Myles Davis could also provide a spark off the bench as a sharp-shooter. He has deep range and accuracy when he's feeling it.

The person that stands to benefit the most from this is Brad Redford. Many expected minutes to be hard to come by for the fifth-year senior, but he'll now have a chance to battle for a starting spot, and will almost certainly see a decent amount of minutes - at least early on while the young guys take their lumps.

The Musketeers will certainly miss the scoring punch that Lyons would have given their lineup. Early word is that Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas are going to reach out to Lyons, according to a tweet by Brewster Academy Head Coach Jason Smith. Lyons still has to graduate in order to be eligible to play right away next season.

Lyons finishes his career 28th on Xavier's all-time scoring list with 1,194 career points.


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