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‘The dude just wants to win’

Guard Paul Scruggs didn't have the junior season he or coach Travis Steele had expected, and they agreed it was a lack of preparation in the offseason.  Now, Scruggs is thriving as a senior and one of the driving forces behind Xavier's 8-1 start.

Travis Steele had a feeling the world was about to change. And he was right.

Xavier University's men's basketball team had just returned to Cincinnati last March, following an unexpected and bitter end to its season – a first-round loss to DePaul in the Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Less than 24 hours after that loss, the coronavirus pandemic would cancel the rest of the Big East Tournament, as well as the NCAA Tournament.

The season was over, and the inevitable, annual question remained: now what?

Steele wanted to meet with his players, to thank the seniors before they went on their way, and talk about the future with his underclassmen.

"I tried to meet with everyone that day because I had a funny feeling that everything was going to absolutely explode," coach Travis said of last March when the rest of the Big East Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament were canceled.

"I tried to meet with everyone that day because I had a funny feeling that everything was going to absolutely explode," said Steele.

Eventually, Paul Scruggs walked into Steele's office. Scruggs missed the last three games of his junior season with a hamstring injury, and Xavier lost all three of those games when a win in any of the three would have all but guaranteed an NCAA Tournament berth.


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