Xavier added depth on Monday night when Florida A&M transfer Malcolm Bernard announced that he would be transferring to the school in Cincinnati. Bernard is a fifth-year graduate transfer that will be eligible to play immediately in 2016-17.
The Musketeers didn't need much help after returning six of its top nine from last season's 28-6 campaign, including standouts Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett. With the addition of Norfolk State transfer RaShid Gaston (who sat out last year) and talented freshman guard Quentin Goodin (ranked 68th in the nation), it would appear that their top eight were pretty well set heading into the preseason. However, prior to Bernard's commitment, there wasn't going to be much competition for minutes on the wing in practice, nor was there much wiggle room in the case of an injury or bad foul trouble.
Bernard averaged 14.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.3 steals in 32.6 minutes while playing for the second worst team in all of college basketball last season, according to KenPom.com. He excelled at drawing fouls for the Rattlers as he attempted 7.5 free throws per game. He did a lot of his damage off the dribble, mostly in transition, and shot just 21.2 percent from 3-point range on 52 attempts. He's also a solid ballhandler and passer. He's listed at 6-foot-6, 195 pounds.
According to sources, Bernard excites the staff because of his versatility and experience.
The coaches expect him to be able to defend multiple possessions and fit in with their overall style of playing positionless basketball with one post and four other skilled players. There's the potential for him to be a rotation guy among their ambiguous, interchangeable wing positions, likely defending opposing 3s or 4s on the defensive end. He also plays hard and should give them good energy in both practices and games.
With the addition of Bernard, Xavier now has three fifth-year players on this year's roster, including Myles Davis and RaShid Gaston. Those guys are mature and have been through a lot of practices, played in a lot of different environments, and picked up a lot of basketball knowledge along the way - something that can only help a team with lofty expectations.
For both Gaston and Bernard, this will be their one and only realistic opportunity to reach an NCAA tournament as well, so both will be motivated to put winning at the top of their priority list.