The Impact: Larry Austin

Rick takes a look at the impact landing Larry Austin in the 2014 class will have on Xavier.

The original plan was to find a true point guard in 2015 after Xavier originally landed just about everything else with its five man recruiting class in 2014. When three-star point guard Larry Austin was released from his LOI at Tennessee where he was originally committed to play for Cuonzo Martin, the coaching staff decided the opportunity was too good to pass up, though, and used its final open scholarship to add a sixth commitment to its nationally rated '14 class.

The commitment of Larry Austin makes a lot of sense for two main reasons. First and foremost, he fills a role for this team that they currently don't have anyone slotted to fill for the foreseeable future. Also, the 2015 class is very weak at the point guard position, so landing a player of Austin's caliber would have proved difficult had the staff waited.

At 6-foot-2, Austin has a solid build and long arms. A true floor general, his toughness and lockdown defensive abilities are his two strongest attributes. He's a facilitator that makes winning decisions and plays, though he lacks a knockdown jumper. He's good at attacking off of the dribble and using his athleticism to make things happen in the lane.

Since Chris Mack took over the program, Xavier has played many guard heavy lineups, and they've had a lot of success when they've had multiple ball handlers and guards who can do a lot of things. With the addition of Austin, it would seem, at least on paper, like the Xavier coaching staff has procured just about every skill-set and role you could want at the guard positions with strong depth for the next two years minimum.

For the 2014-15 season, they'll still have a veteran leader in Dee Davis that is a true point guard that can facilitate and really defend. They'll also have Remy Abell making his Xavier debut, though he's a three-year veteran at the high-major college level, who has defended Victor Oladipo and Semaj Christon in practice for the last two years. He brings size and versatility with the ability to guard multiple positions (1-3), and the expectation of being a capable jump shooter from the perimeter. In last year's class, the Musketeers added a specialist shooter at the two-guard in Myles Davis, and a utility guard in Brandon Randolph with athleticism and raw ability, who had brief flashes of playmaking ability when attacking the basket early in the nonconference season. Now, with the 2014 class they're adding two elite shooters on the wing in Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura, who could potentially see some time at the two-guard, but they're also bringing in a scoring combo-guard with special ability and tons of offensive upside in Edmond Sumner. The addition of Austin brings a smart point guard who is comfortable enough and big enough to play off the ball on offense, with the ability to lockdown multiple positions on defense.

Offensively, Austin averaged 22 points a game in high school, though he doesn't project to be a big-time scorer. With all the scorers and shooters the Musketeers have added to the roster, they needed someone who was going to be a great teammate and that can really move the ball to get those scorers going on the offensive end. The staff thinks Austin can be that guy. He's at his best in transition, though he also did some great things on the grassroots level when operating in pick-and-roll situations in the half court, which is something Xavier has based a lot of its offense around over the last several years. He has similar traits to Dee Davis, but with more size and athleticism. Learning under a similar player like Davis and having to work against the veteran in practice every day for his freshman year will only help Austin progress.

On the other end of the court, the expectation is that Austin will be an elite level defender. His size will allow him to guard the one or the two, which will allow Mack to mix and match his guard lineups. Where Austin will make the biggest impact is his ability to push the tempo. His AAU coach calls him a pitbull because of his toughness and tenacity on the court, and his ball pressure on the defensive end - plus a few other talented defenders like Davis or Abell - will allow the Musketeers to really turn up the heat on opposing guards. Austin is good at starting plays with his defense and turning them into offensive opportunities by pushing the ball on the break.

Clearly the staff made it a point to go after a class full of great guys who would add to team chemistry and continue to create a great winning culture during the formative Big East years, as all of the players have received effusive praise for their personal makeup, and Austin also fits that theme. By all accounts, he's a super high character kid with a 3.75 GPA that is a great teammate and locker room guy. It extends beyond that, though. This team has added a lot of skill to its roster, but Austin gives them a mentally and physically tough leader, who plays with grit and enjoys physicality – a trait a lot of very successful Xavier guards have had.

Next year's roster is now set with all 13 scholarships filled. With the addition of six freshman plus Remy Abell, the team's trip to Brazil in early August, which includes four exhibition games and more importantly 10 practices before they leave, will be huge for Chris Mack's young but talented team.


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