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In the Mississippi Valley,
In the Crescent Bend
Stands our loved and noble Xavier,
Far her praises send.
Wave her colors bear them onward
Gold and white so true
Hail to thee, all hail, dear Xavier
Hail, all hail, X.U.!
Xavier, ever be our guide
And lead us on the way,
Through life's journey, onward, upward
To the eternal day. (Refrain)
2008-09 Xavier University of Louisiana Men's Basketball Preview
Gold Rush sets its sights on continued excellence
look back on the history of the program."
More than 70 years ago, Xavier University of Louisiana produced its first of four
consecutive 20-game winners in men's basketball.
Times change, but Xavier's tradition of excellence hasn't. Gold
Rush basketball in 2008-09 is seeking a sixth consecutive 20-game winner, which would tie
the school record set from 1990-96. Xavier's 25 seasons of 20 or more victories are the most
in the history of Louisiana men's collegiate basketball.
This most recent 20-win streak began in Dannton Jackson's
first season as head coach. Jackson's tenure includes a pair of Gulf Coast Athletic
Conference regular-season championships and a school-record four consecutive
appearances in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship. Before
Jackson became head coach, the Rush never reached the NAIA nationals more than
two consecutive seasons.
"It's a great accomplishment," said Jackson, 115-50
in his first five seasons. "You can attribute it to the guys we've had here.
They've been able to reach their potential. At times they overachieved.
Our recent success is overwhelming when you
About the Gold Rush
• Head Coach: Dannton Jackson (Xavier 1992 and 1996), sixth season; 115-50 at Xavier and overall
• Assistant Coach: David Egans (Xavier 2002), third season
• 2007-08 Record: 24-10 overall, 12-6 (third place) in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
• 2007-08 Postseason: GCAC Tournament runner-up; Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Championship qualifier for
fourth consecutive season
• 2007-08 Scoring: offense 71.0 ppg, defense 64.5 ppg
• Leading Returning Scorer: Shaun Dumas, 10.5 ppg
• Leading Returning Rebounder: Kelechi Okoroha, 5.1 rpg
Also notable is that Xavier is one of nine schools with
active streaks of four or more consecutive appearances at the NAIA Division I nationals.
"We haven't always been the most talented," Jackson said,
"but we've been hard-working. We've always had great leadership on the floor since
I've been in charge. Guys like Kenneth Mickie, Michael Varnado, Alfred Williams,
Dumas, an NAIA honorable-mention All-American this past
season and a third-team All-American in 2006-07, heads a list of nine returning
lettermen from a 24-10 team which finished third in the GCAC regular season,
reached the GCAC Tournament final for the first time since 1996 and earned
Xavier's fourth consecutive trip to the national tournament.
Dumas, a senior point guard, averaged 10.5 points
and a team-leading 4.9 assists and 2.4 steals this past season. He's the
only one of four double-figure scorers who returns.
"Shaun gives us great leadership," Jackson said.
"He's an extension of the coach. He makes sure everyone gets to where they're
supposed to be on the floor. But others will also have to step up."
Williams (11 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Mark Stewart
(13.6 points as a senior, school-career-record 299 3-pointers) were both
All-GCAC as seniors this past season and must be replaced.
Also returning for Xavier is forward/center Dannie Woods,
a two-year starter who made 14 consecutive field goals during a four-game
stretch this past February and averaged 6.3 points.
The other returning starters are forwards Kelechi
Okoroha and Cornelius Kennedy and guards Olumide Olafioye, Devin Andrew,
Michael Ruffin, Ryan DeRousselle and Michael Harvey.
Okoroha — the only other senior on the team and
a starter in 2006-07 — averaged 9.7 points and 5.1 rebounds and is a career
60-percent shooter from the floor. Like Dumas, he's a senior and a preseason
Olafioye averaged seven points per game this past
season and has averaged 17.8 points per 40 minutes in two seasons.
None of the other returning lettermen averaged more
than three points this past season, although Kennedy averaged 5.4 points in
There are six newcomers — three juniors and three
freshmen. The most heralded is guard Harold Cleveland, who led California's
junior colleges with a Pasadena City College-record 25.6 scoring average this
past season. He had seven 30-point games as a sophomore, including a school-record
48 points against San Jose City College in the season opener. Cleveland made
79 3-pointers in 27 games and shot 36 percent from that range.
In addition to replacing Williams — who shot
41 percent from 3-point range in three seasons — and Stewart on the
perimeter, NAIA and NCAA men's teams this season must deal with a longer 3-point shot.
The line has been moved back a foot, from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20-9.
"It's an interesting move for the game," Jackson said.
"I would expect it to open up the paint and extend the defenses a lot more.
There should be more activity and focus by teams on the low post. For us
it would open driving lanes a little more.
"You better get some shooters because if you can't
shoot from outside, teams are going to pack it in on you."
Xavier's other new juniors are forward Landon Bussie,
a transfer from NCAA Division II member Livingtstone, and guard Alex Stone,
a transfer from NCAA Division I's New Jersey Institute of Technology. The
freshmen are forwards Cordell Hadnot and Josh White and guard Jamaan Kenner.
"We always lose good people, but somebody always
seems to step up the next season," Jackson said. "I don't see why this
year would be any different. We've always tried to find guys who are
solid citizens, committed to excellence and willing to work hard.
"If we do our business — defend, execute the
offense, eliminate mistakes and focus on ourselves — we'll be fine."
If you like trends, try this: The Gold Rush has
alternated third- and first-place finishes in the GCAC during Jackson's
tenure. If the pattern continues this season, it's Xavier turn to be on