The forward position is where a big disparity begins to set in between the Rocks and the Tigers. The forwards for both teams are very skilled, but in different ways. While Trinity has a clear physical advantage, St. X will be sneaky in how they use this position tonight. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out on the court.
St. Xavier Depth Chart
– #32 Will Olsen | 6’2″ | 191 lbs. | Junior | SF
– #35 C.J. Shanklin | 6’3″ | 175 lbs. | Senior | SF/PF
– #22 Billy Basham | 6’1″ | 185 lbs. | Junior | SF/PF
– #15 Nick Kitchen | 6’2″ | 180 lbs. | Senior | SF
St. Xavier Overview
The Tigers feature some wiley, heady players that man the forward spots. Olsen and Shanklin start, and they provide a nice inside-outside blend. Olsen is a perimeter player who loves to nestle himself in along the baseline and wings in positions that make opposing defenses uncomfortable. His three-point shooting has been streaky this year, but he will take and make any unguarded outside shot.
Shanklin is an especially interesting piece in St. X’s puzzle. He is a natural point guard with NBA size, but due to the Tigers’ extreme lack of size, Shanklin has shifted to playing almost exclusively at small forward and power forward. Shanklin has never been a sharpshooter, but his outside has improved considerably this season, and it has gotten to the point where he should be respected out there. This step was huge for his game, because his strength is much like Trinity’s similarly-sized guard Michael Stafford: penetrating. Shanklin loves getting into the teeth of a defense and then making a decision on whether to pass or shoot. He puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his wide array of flashy dribble moves. Initially, Shanklin’s ball handling was being taken advantage of because of the position he plays. But as he has grown more comfortable with his role, he has started to get out on the break more frequently. A huge advantage for St. X is Shanklin being the team’s leading rebounder (6.4 rpg), because he has become a natural at rebounding and going the length of the court on his own for buckets. Any easy baskets Shanklin can get by pushing after his own rebound will be huge in this game.
Billy Basham and Nick Kitchen come off the bench to bring smart, high-energy play that is capable of flipping the complexion of the game.
Shanklin says that defense and rebounding are his chief duties tonight; with the bodies he is going up against, it is no surprise he is focusing his energy inside. If Olson can get going from deep, Shanklin’s toughness inside may be the deciding factor in the game.
Olson said it best: “We are going to have to battle,” he explained. “We are going to have to go after it on the backboards and have to have all five guys boxing out on every possession.”
Trinity Depth Chart
– #23 Christian Thieneman | SF/PF | Senior
– #4 Jax Levitch | SF/PF | Senior
– #14 David Burton | SF | Sophomore
The Rocks aren’t particularly deep at this position, but they have a couple of special players here. Christian Thieneman is committed to Marshall University, and Jax Levitch has several D1 offers. There is a reason these guys will be heading to big-time colleges next season: they make plays.
Thieneman will be a handful because of his versatility. He can bang inside with the bigs and rebound, and he is equally as lethal outside, where he sports an impressive three-point stroke. He is ultra-important in Trinity’s offensive scheme because he can fill multiple holes left from foul trouble or injuries at any time.
When I asked him if Raymond Spalding getting in foul trouble would change their approach, he responded predictably.
“Yes it could,” Thieneman said. “I could play inside a little bit or play a five-out motion.”
Levitch, summarized in one word: sniper. You simply cannot give this guy any look at the basket from three-point range. He sunk big trey balls in the state tournament last season, and he told me he is more than comfortable taking and making shots on a big stage. Something to watch out for will be Levitch’s defense. It’s an aspect of his game he said he needs to work on, and if he doesn’t come out focused, he could be an attack point for St. X.
While all the eyes are always on Spalding, Thieneman could be the difference in this game. All you have to hear is him describing his role.
“[My role is] just to be the toughest kid on the team and lead the team to victories.”
When a player of his caliber says something like that, he should be feared.
On Tuesday night, The Tigers drubbed the Collegiate Titans from start to finish. Connor McKim and C.J. Shanklin shined, but it was an overall team effort, as 14 players saw action. Keep in mind, starting guard Ashanti Burgess was unavailable with a bruised calf. The final score was 66-27; let’s see how it got there.
Stats of the Game
1. Connor McKim had a game high 16 points going 6-7 on field goals and 4-5 from the charity stripe.
2. C.J. Shanklin had a game high 6 rebounds and pulled them down with force; 4 of the 6 were offensive and Shanklin took them right back up and turned them into points.
3. The Tiger Defense forced 26 turnovers. Twenty of them came in the first half. Outstanding.
4. McKim had 5 assists to zero turnovers. If that continues, we are in for a treat this year. This junior point guard is special.
5. Six reserves logged minutes against Collegiate. It’s never too early to get the young bench players some varsity experience.
1. Early in the first quarter Will Olsen had back-to-back layups off steals to build an early 6-0 lead.
2. At one point in the first half, the defense recorded three consecutive steals off the Titan inbound pass, converting all of them into six easy points.
3. Billy Basham hit a three at the halftime buzzer to extend the lead to 46-12.
There were very few “pivotal” moments in this game. It was all Tigers, all night.
Handling the Opponent
St. X handled the opponent. Literally. There’s not much to say here. Pure domination on defense and good execution on offense. The Titans shot 33% from the field to the Tigers’ 58%.
This game ball has to go to McKim. He was all over the place and ran the fast break beautifully on several occasions Tuesday night. He touched nearly every column of the stat sheet and did not turn the ball over. He more than made up for the absence of Burgess who should be ready to go for the next Friday’s clash with Cincinnati St. Xavier.
Tweets of the Game
What a beautiful pass it was. The Tigers had 14 assists on the night.
It was undoubtedly a stellar outing by the Green and Gold.
The Saint Xavier Basketball team kicked off the regular season Tuesday night against the Central Yellowjackets, and it was a squeaker amid a hostile road environment.
But the Tigers handled the pressure from the crowd and the Jackets very well, and perfect execution late in the game led St. X to a resounding 69-64 victory, making this their second consecutive victory in the season opener.
The team secured the victory with methodical, consistent ball movement and tremendous poise when the action heated up. They didn’t need any flash or frills; St. X won by simply controlling what it could and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded.
With three new faces in the starting lineup, the final outcome of the game was anything but decided before tip-off. Juniors Connor McKim and Will Olsen joined senior C.J. Shanklin as first timers in the lineup along with returning starters Ashanti Burgess and Lucas Miller. After two losing efforts in preseason scrimmages versus Oldham County and Bowling Green, the Tigers were desperately hoping they could find a rhythm early.
St. X never really established a rhythm, but it didn’t phase McKim at all. The point guard finished with 15 points on 1-5 shooting and 13-14 free throw shooting. He got to the rim early and often and was money when he got there. He wasn’t phased by a loud crowd on the road either, as he swished 6-6 shots at the charity stripe in the final 30 seconds of the game to put the nail in the coffin.
“I honestly felt great,” McKim said about his clutch free throws. “I’ve thought about times like that a lot, on the road and needing to hit free throws to seal the game. I was just thinking, ‘Take your time and win this game.'”
If you look at the box score, both Central and St. X looked very similar; both teams shot horribly from long range, both teams had a ton of turnovers, and both teams had almost the exact same rebound total.
But the Tigers routed the Jackets in one category: free throw shooting. St. X had more than doubled the amount of attempts Central had, and the Tigers converted those extra scoring opportunities at an 85% team clip. The difference in the game was the charity stripe.
The game started with a technical foul before tip-off for the third year in a row when Central was assessed a uniform violation for not wearing white jerseys as the home team. McKim drained the two freebies to begin his eventful night at the line.
The first quarter was back-and-forth the whole way, and the score was knotted up at 16 after the buzzer sounded.
St. X controlled the second quarter on the shoulders of Olsen, who poured in 10 of his team-high 16 points. Senior Tiger guard Josh Rudy turned the game around for the Tigers on a brilliant play early in the quarter. He took an inbounds pass, broke Central’s full-court press, and picked up his dribble just after passing halfcourt. He was immediately double-teamed, and just when it looked like he was going to turn it over on a five-second call, he whipped it across the court to Miller for a wide-open layup that gave the Tigers a big burst of energy.
St. X lead by 7 at halftime, but the Jackets turned the tables in the third period by holding the Tigers to just 7 points and tying the score at 47.
But McKim’s decisive play and Rudy’s deceptively-effective 20 minutes off the bench helped guide St. X the rest of the way. Rudy only had 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, but he did not turn the ball over at all and brought a calming presence to the floor when the pressure was ratcheting up.
Shanklin started his first regular season game back after tearing his left ACL in a summer AAU game in during the summer of his junior year. It will be especially tough for him to get back in the swing of things because not only is he adjusting to the feel of the game after being injured for a long time, but he also has to become accustomed to playing in the post when he is naturally a guard.
“It was hard getting back to the speed of a real game and also the atmosphere,” Shanklin explained. “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but I started to adjust and get a good feel for the game again. I didn’t really think about it being my first game back.”
Shanklin finished with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 23 minutes of action in what was production that will almost surely increase as he grows more accustomed to his role. He said he needs to work on being more aggressive and putting the ball on the floor going forward.
The Tigers now sit at 1-0 on the young season with their next game against district rival Collegiate. That game will be St. X’s home opener, and it is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday night in the Bro. John Wills Arena.