Xavier landed a commitment Saturday from highly regarded Belmont transfer Adam Kunkel, giving the Musketeers a key addition at the shooting guard position that should help the team address its recent outside shooting struggles. Kunkel chose Xavier over Arkansas, Oklahoma and Creighton.
He will sit out the upcoming season but has two seasons worth of eligibility remaining.
Kunkel and Xavier are a great fit, with his biggest strength — outside shooting — meshing perfectly with one of Xavier’s biggest weaknesses. Last season, Travis Steele’s team ranked 286th nationally in 3-point shooting, and the year before, it ranked 235th. As a team, Xavier ranked last among all Big East teams in 3-point shooting during conference play.
“We were offensively challenged,” Steele told CBB Review earlier this summer while recapping the 2019-20 season. “I thought we were really good defensively. Offensively, we could not shoot the ball and we didn’t have great decision making either. I thought those were the two areas that really plagued our team last year.”
Kunkel made 39% of his 213 3-point attempts last season for Belmont and averaged 16.5 points and 2.6 assists per game in pacing the 26-win Bruins, who won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship and finished tied atop the regular season conference standings with Murray State.
Steele and his staff have been attacking the transfer market vociferously this offseason and their work has been rewarded, with Kunkel becoming the third transfer to commit to the program since the pandemic. Gardner-Webb transfer Nate Johnson, who averaged 13.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season, and Mercy transfer Bryan Griffin, who averaged nearly 20 points per game last season, are also joining the program. They are graduate transfers who are immediately eligible in 2020.
Xavier is losing top scorer Naji Marshall to the NBA Draft and its top rebounder, Tyrique Jones, to graduation. But with KyKy Tandy and Paul Scruggs among those returning in addition to a solid incoming transfer class, Xavier might be primed to appear in its first NCAA Tournament appearance next season under Steele’s watch.