By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
Xavier men’s basketball is extensively covered by many online outlets, but there is only one newspaper beat writer for the Musketeers. Her name is Shannon Russell, and she is now in her eighth season covering the team for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Her primary roles are to cover Xavier athletics, especially the men’s basketball team, as well as the Western and Southern Financial tennis tournament held in the Cincinnati area during the summer.
The Newswire conducted an email interview with Russell about her job and the team this year.
“As the only newspaper beat writer for Xavier, I feel it’s my responsibility to be around the team as much as possible. Sometimes I have projects I know I’m working on and sometimes it’s just the news of the day – a preview for a game or a game itself. I go to practices often but not to write. Sometimes it’s beneficial to get a feel for the team just by watching,” Russell said.
Last season, the team made another memorable run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, and Russell was with the team every step of the way.
“It’s always fun to watch Xavier teams develop from the season’s start to the season’s end. Last year was no different. I think the most exciting time started with the final game of the regular season, a victory over Creighton before a packed house. A team that critics underestimated then went on to the Big East Tournament finals before clinching its NCAA tournament ticket,” Russell said. “The best game, despite the loss, was against Arizona because of how well the seniors played and, of course, the additional subplot against a team led by former coach Sean Miller.”
While she may have become accustomed to the intricacies of the daily routine of the team, she mentioned there is one facet of the team that may stand out as unique to the fans.
“I think people would be surprised to know how hard the team practices. Everything is video-recorded, graded and highly competitive,” Russell said.
Game days for the beat writer can be hectic as there is so much going on. There is such a wide variety of events that occur over the course of the day and the game in particular, so she cannot afford to miss a step.
“I usually arrive two hours before a home game. Sometimes I’m working on a non-game day story and need to interview people who I know will be there. I also spend time talking to media members, including any that come for the visiting team,” Russell said. “During the game it’s a frenzy of Tweeting and writing a running game story to send to our web site at the buzzer. Then it’s on to the press conferences, asking questions and then transcribing quotes under deadline for the final story.”
Finally, The Newswire asked for her thoughts on this season, and in particular, the point guard battle to replace graduated point guard Dee Davis.
“I don’t think the lack of defined point guard will define the team. They may be inexperienced, but Xavier has capable players in Larry Austin Jr. and Edmond Sumner. The key for Xavier will be how well it rebounds and defends because it has plenty of resources in the offensive department.”
Xavier did indeed show lapses on the defensive end, as Russell mentioned, while providing glimpses of brilliance on offense during the season-opener against Miami (OH).