By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Cintas Center will be featuring an assortment of new faces in the 2014-15 basketball season. Both the men’s and women’s teams went through off-season facelifts, which included tough goodbyes for key players and cheerful welcomes to talented newcomers.
While Chris Mack and Brian Neal were able to bring in recruiting classes that ranked in the nation’s top-50, possibly the biggest additions will come from the experience of the newest transfers.
Xavier women’s basketball has been fortunate enough to bring in the leadership of senior point guard Maleeka Kynard. After graduating with a criminal justice degree from the Ohio State University in just three years this past May, Kynard will be eligible to play this season.
If coaching on an interim basis was not hard enough for Neal last year, he must now work to replace graduated Musketeers such as leading scorers Shatyra Hawkes and Ashley Wanniger, with Kynard and a talented freshman class.
For a roster lacking on-court experience at the college level, Kynard will be asked to carry this year’s team through adversity and hold the ship steady throughout success despite this being her first year as a Musketeer.
While most transfers arrive to their new school after sitting out a year and taking that time to acclimate themselves to a new campus, Kynard will have to make the turnaround quickly while leading underclassmen at the same time.
Transitions prove to be difficult for transfer students. “It definitely isn’t easy, but I’ve already lived ‘the college life’ and we help each other along the way. The closeness and family-like atmosphere of Xavier gives me the comfort to be a leader. At the same time, I am able to bring an intensity and speed to get the girls used to playing college ball,” Kynard said.
Meanwhile, Mack’s boys are adjusting to life without leading scorer Semaj Christon or rebounding machines Isaiah Philmore and Erik Stenger.
Taking the more traditional route, Xavier men’s basketball welcomes redshirt junior shooting guard Remy Abell. After playing two years for Indiana University (IU), Abell sat out last season due to NCAA rules.
Abell will be competing against a very talented group of guards to join senior point guard Dee Davis, whom he considers the hardest teammate to defend, in the starting lineup. “He’s got (veteran) moves that you can’t expect. When you put that with how quick he is and good his passes are, there’s no one way to guard him,” Abell said.
In two years at IU, Abell was part of Hoosier squads that made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. Some of his former teammates include current NBA players Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic and Cody Zeller who currently plays for the Charlotte Bobcats.
When on the court, it may be hard to distinguish these two players from robots programmed for success.
“I’m a winner. Everywhere I have been I work my hardest to bring out the best in my team,” Abell said.
In response to being expected to take a leadership position, Kynard highlighted how actions make a leader, “I lead by example. If I want my teammates to be their best, I need to stay focused out on the court,” Kynard said.
Despite this on-court nose-to-the-dirt mentality, both players take pride in their off the court selves that they describe as “silly” and “goofy”.
Cintas Center will definitely have holes left by vacancies this season, but the experience and dedication from Abell and Kynard will soon fill these voids as they make their own legacies as Musketeers.
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