Team Oriented Seniors Leave Personal Mark
March 6, 2009
CINCINNATI - All season long, their roles have been easily defined.
Senior C.J. Anderson is the leader: the heart.
Fellow senior B.J. Raymond is the hardest worker: the soul.
And in their last game in the Cintas Center, they collectively willed the Xavier Musketeers to a 76-59 victory over rival Dayton.
"Our team's identity really has always fed off of them from start to finish. Not that our season is over, but I know the Cintas season is over and it was very gratifying to see those two leave our program with the win," head coach Sean Miller said.
Even in the preseason, Anderson was the heart of this year's bunch.
If you were to ask any Xavier player or coach who the vocal leader of the team is, their answer every time would be C.J. Anderson.
"He is the leader of our team, we go when he goes," Raymond said of Anderson.
If Anderson is the heart, then Raymond is the soul.
Raymond, a player that wasn't a regular starter until this season, has always done what was asked of him.
In his first three seasons, Raymond started only 10 of his 102 career games. However, when his number was called, he delivered big shots. Probably no shots were bigger than his two overtime three pointers against West Virginia in last year's Sweet Sixteen NCAA Tournament game.
This year, Raymond is not coming off the bench, leading the team in minutes played (30.1 per game); three pointers made (68); and tied for most points per game (13.7) with junior Derrick Brown.
"Every year he has accepted the role that has been given to him, whether it be coming off the bench and making shots or just being a starter and a great defender," Anderson said of Raymond. "I just think he has embraced his role whatever he is asked to do and he does it to the best of his capability."
Neither Anderson or Raymond missed a start this season, but both will be greatly missed once everything is all said and done.
"There might be more talented seniors in college basketball, but I would be willing to bet that there aren't two guys who have a bigger heart or more toughness than B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson," Miller said.
Prior to the game, both seniors were recognized at midcourt on Senior Night in front a sell-out crowd of 10,250.
However, at the start, both struggled to score, as they combined to score only two points in the first half.
Jackson got it all started when he scored 11 straight points (after Dayton scored the first basket of the game) in a two-minute span to begin the game, giving Xavier a 11-2 lead with 17:17 left in the first half.
Then the high-flying McLean, who coach Miller said after the game was "the best he has played," scored 10 points and pulled down four rebounds in only eight first half minutes.
As the second half got underway and it looked like the Musketeers would pull away, the Flyers bounced back in the game, cutting the lead down to six on four separate occasions in the second half.
The final time UD cut the lead to six was after junior Marcus Johnson's highlight-reel dunk that landed the score at 56-49. After Johnson's dunk, Anderson and Raymond ensured the win with an 8-0 run of their own.
After making two consecutive free throws, Anderson grabbed a long rebound and led the Musketeers on a fast break. He then found fellow senior B.J. Raymond in transition for a three pointer; the shot made Raymond the 47th Musketeer to join the 1,000-point club.
"If I have seen it once I have seen it 100 times: when he gets free in transition, he can really break the game open," Miller said. "Not only was it a good shot, but I thought C.J. had one of his best plays of the game. He was the person that just slowed down, found him, got him the ball and it was kind of one senior to the other to break the game open."
On the next possession Raymond hit another three from the same spot on the floor, as the two seniors combined to increase Xavier's lead to 11, 63-52.
The game was never close after that and the Musketeers held onto the win, which clinched them at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title.
The conference championship is Xavier's third in a row.
The win also was the 100th for Raymond's career, which broke the previous school record of 99 held by the class of 2004 that included Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato.
"Think about our great tradition--and I think we have a really deep 25-year tradition--there has never been a single player that has won more games during their career than B.J.--enough said," Miller said.
Despite scoring his 1,000th point, earning his 100th win, helping his team win its third straight A-10 title and doing all this on Senior Night, Raymond feels that his legacy at Xavier has yet to be fulfilled.
"I feel like a lot of people have scored 1,000 points and I feel that many have had a lot of wins here at Xavier, but mostly I feel that I have a bigger legacy to leave," Raymond said. "I don't think that I have played my best basketball. We are getting to a time at the end of the season where seniors need to pick it up to make sure the young kids are ready because they are entering a stage where a lot of them haven't played before."