Following the departure of Luis Flores in 2004, Bobby Gonzalez brought in a handful of talented recruits to rebuild the Manhattan College Jaspers. Among the group were C.J. Anderson, C.J. Lee, Arturo Dubois, and Jeff Xavier.
All four eventually transferred from Manhattan. Anderson transferred to Xavier University, Lee packed his bags for the cold weather in Ann Arbor, and Dubois headed to Delaware State.
None of these three were the ideal basketball player.
Anderson skipped class and was on academic probation for half of his sophomore season. Lee had the right attitude, but did not have a good basketball IQ. Dubois did not have much of a brain for the game or the right attitude. But he was very solid when he played within his range.
What makes Xavier, who transferred to Providence after his sophomore season, stand out against the aforementioned three is that he possessed every asset that a coach could possibly ask for.
He had good hands, smarts, quickness, a soft touch from three, the ability to drive, and a nose for the ball on defense.
At 6'1" and 185 pounds, Xavier came into Manhattan as an undersized shooting guard, but he was able to make an immediate impact on a rebuilding team. In 19.3 minutes per game, he averaged 7.8 points and 1.4 steals. Xavier also shot 36.9 percent from long range.
His playing time skyrocketed in his sophomore season.
As a result, his statistics also took a leap. Xavier began averaging 34.8 minutes per game. The starting shooting guard poured in 16.6 points, grabbed 5.9 rebounds, and stole 2.3 passes. He scored at least 20 points in 10 games.
The Jaspers, who were upset by Keekee Clark's Peacocks of Saint Peter's in the 2006 MAAC semifinals, were a heavy underdog against Maryland in the first round of the NIT.
Behind Xavier's best performance of his collegiate career, he scored 31 points on four treys and recorded six steals. The Jaspers were able to defeat the Terps.
In the following round, Xavier's 19-points were not enough to beat an Old Dominion team that advanced all the way to the NIT semifinals. The guard's final shot as a Jasper was a desperation three-pointer that would have defeated the Monarchs if it had not rolled in and out.
At the end of the season, Bobby Gonzalez announced that the was taking the vacant coaching job at Seton Hall, prompting Xavier as well as Anderson and Lee to transfer.
Xavier had a life-long dream to play for his hometown Providence Friars, but he was overlooked by Tim Welsh during his high school days. Coming off such a strong season at a reputable mid-major program, Xavier had the profile to be accepted by the school that once neglected his talents.
After spending the 2006-2007 season on the bench due to transfer regulations, Xavier made his debut with the Friars in a two point win against Temple on Nov. 15, 2007. Xavier scored 12-points in front of the home crowd.
He had a starting job upon eligibility and had a very solid junior season with Providence. His statistics declined a bit, but that was expected because of the higher level of competition. Nonetheless, the shooting guard averaged 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 steals in 31.6 minutes per game.
As a senior, Xavier's statistics declined.
He had a tough year, only shooting 36.5 percent from the field and averaging 9.5 points per game. With the return of Sharaud Curry and the drastic development of Marshan Brooks, Xavier's playing time decreased to 24 minutes per game.
Maybe that was why his stats dropped. Maybe he was affected by new coach Keno Davis. Either way, his offensive production was not the same.
In today's Big East quarterfinal against No. 5 Louisville, Xavier would not have been able to hit water if he fell out of a boat. He scored six points on a terrible 2-of-10 conversion rate. A couple of his shots were so off that they hit the edge of the backboard instead of the rim.
While I was watching the game, I could not believe what I was seeing.
Early on, I thought this was not the same Jeff Xavier that I saw at Manhattan. Then, after bricking a three, he planted his feet and drew a charge on the other end.
That and the rebound that he secured after getting a cramp in his leg told me that this was the same tough, hard-nosed Jeff Xavier from Manhattan.
It is a shame that this kid will never receive the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. As of now, it looks like the Friars will be headed to the NIT in which Xavier scored his career-high 31 points as a sophomore.
Assuming that Providence accepts its invite to the NIT, Xavier will suit up at least one more time.
If the Friars reject the invite, the career of a basketball player, who had the skills that any coach would crave for, ended today.