With James Farr graduating after this year and Jalen Reynolds being a likely candidate to start looking at professional options after this season, it's likely that Xavier was slated to have Sean O'Mara as the only true post player on its roster heading into the 2016-17 season. Tuesday morning Chris Mack and his staff helped rectify that situation by landing a commitment from Norfolk State transfer big man RaShid Gaston.
The addition of Gaston, a 6-9, 245-pound forward, brings legit size, strength and experience to the Musketeers' roster for 2016-17. It also relieves a lot of pressure on the staff's recruiting efforts for the 2016 class.
Gaston's top attribute will be his rebounding on both ends of the floor. Rebounding is a skill that translates well at any level of basketball, so, even if he finds the high-major level to be a difficult adjustment in terms of competition level, he should still be able to help the Musketeers' control the glass. He finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with 9.6 rebounds per game, and he's equally as difficult to box out on either end of the court.
Gaston was used heavily on offense at Norfolk State for a post player, but he was still efficient. He had the highest offensive rating on the team (115.1) and had an effective field goal percentage of 63.1 (18th in the nation). Despite having some touch, he understands his game and stays within himself as opposed to stepping out and trying to be a stretch or finesse forward like so many other post players. Xavier's coaches do a good job of running actions that provide their big men with opportunities to duck in and seal their man deep in the lane for easy buckets - expect Gaston to take full advantage of those chances with his physical style. He has good hands and finishes well, often absorbing contact first. Though not a great athlete, he will run the floor and score in transition. He's capable of finishing above the rim. One area where he does struggle is at the charity stripe - he shot just 54 percent last year on 158 attempts, and he's a 52 percent shooter for his career.
Gaston was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week four times last season, and he takes pride in being a tough defender. He has the bulk and strength to defend against centers, but should have no problem matching up with most forwards when the staff wants to play two bigs, with him and O'Mara in together. Though he doesn't have all the physical tools of a legit rim protector, he does have strong shot blocking instincts (especially on the ball) and will help the Musketeers' protect the paint.
Off the court, Gaston has the reputation of being a well-liked teammate and respected student-athlete. He projects to be a good addition to an already strong locker room.
In terms of recruiting, Xavier's staff now has the luxury of landing a 2016 big man or two and then giving them a full year to develop before relying on them to be key contributors in the post. This is especially important in this class now with Joey Brunk off the board, as a few of Xavier's top big man targets are guys that could need a year in the system and weight room first. The staff could also decide to take just one big man and then go all in on a best available type at another position, with an immediate post presence no longer being essential.
Gaston balances out more than just Xavier's recruiting classes. The staff had made a move toward versatility with the 2014 and '15 classes, bringing in hybrid forwards like Trevon Bluiett, Makinde London and Kaiser Gates, who greatly enhanced the roster's skill level. Headed toward 2016 an injection of toughness and strength was necessary. Mack and company will now have two experienced bruisers in the frontcourt to rotate with those leaner skilled guys, giving them options and the ability to matchup with different looks.