Analysis: grad transfers will produce for Xavier

Newswire photo by Marissa Nelson | Graduate transfer guard Kyle Castlin (No. 2) will be at Xavier for his last year of college eligibility. Last season, he averaged 10.5 points per game.

One narrative that pervaded this offseason is how Xavier will be able to replace the talented graduating class of Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura, Sean O’Mara and Kerem Kanter as well as Kaiser Gates who left for the NBA Draft.

Luckily for the Musketeers, head coach Travis Steele was able to land three significant graduate transfers to bolster the roster of Team 97.

The first is Kyle Castlin, who joins the Musketeers from Columbia University in New York.

Castlin has made a significant first impression and was named a captain of this year’s team alongside Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones. The 6-4 guard battled injury issues while at Columbia and had to redshirt for what would have been his junior season. Castlin will not jump off the page statistically, but he is a good scorer and can defend at a high level.

Coach Steele has praised his intelligence, and Castlin’s methodical approach to the game will allow him to fully embrace the leadership role he’s already undertaken.

Xavier also corraled the Division II National Player of the Year last season with Zach Hankins. A native of Charlevoix, Mich., Hankins was fairly underrecruited out of high school and went to Ferris State, where he dominated. He led Ferris State to a national championship last season before deciding to transition to Division I for his final year of eligibility.

If fans are looking for someone to replace the attitude and tenacity Macura brought to the table, they will have to look no further than Hankins.

While the 6-11 forward plays a different position than Macura, Hankins is not afraid to show off some flare. He is a true rim-protector, something Xavier fans haven’t seen during the last few seasons.

Hankins led the country in blocked shots in his final two years at Ferris State and averaged nearly a double-double at 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Look for Hankins, headband and all, to be an effective post scorer and defender this year.

Finally, Ryan Welage comes to Xavier from San Jose State University. While he transferred from a school in California, he’s very familiar with the area.

Welage played high school basketball for Greensburg Community High School in Indiana, where he led the team to two straight state championships.

The most important thing to know about Welage is his ability to shoot the basketball. He will stretch defenses because of his range.

In just three seasons at San Jose State, Welage climbed the school ranks and finished sixth all time in scoring and left as the program’s all-time leading three-point shooter.

During the 2017-18 season Welage shot 43 percent from beyond the arc.

As Steele mentioned while talking about Welage, the biggest question mark for his playing time will be how he matches up defensively with the physical nature of Big East basketball. He will need to respond quickly on defense, but if he can prove to be a good defender, he should play significant minutes.

These three pieces will be crucial to the success of this year’s team.

The Musketeers are lower in depth than in previous seasons, but if these three graduate transfers can perform well early in the year, Xavier should be in good shape.

By: Paul Fristchner | Staff Writer