Malcolm Bernard is not a household name. He won’t be mentioned as the kind of player who will alter the trajectory of the 2016-’17 college basketball season.
That doesn’t mean he can’t give his new team a shot in the arm.
The Florida A&M transfer can help the Xavier Musketeers in many ways, enabling Chris Mack and crew to brush off the losses of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr.
The 22-year-old, a graduate transfer, will be immediately eligible to play. Having started his collegiate career with Charleston Southern, where he had little success, the 6-5 guard/forward combo gained a lot more minutes last season for A&M. Accordingly, his production skyrocketed.
While a lot of that can be attributed to playing in the lower-level MEAC, some of what Bernard brings to the table is certainly translatable to the Big East Conference.
Xavier lost 14.3 boards per game combined from (the departures of) Reynolds and Farr. Bernard is fresh off a campaign in which he get grabbed 7 boards per outing. That’s a rather gaudy number for a player his size who spends a lot of time on the wing.
Furthermore, he averaged slightly more than 14 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game last season. He is, for a lack of a better phrase, a box-score stat-stuffing savant.
Yes, some of these numbers amount to nothing more than fluff. He won’t get 30 minutes per game on the floor for the Musketeers as he did with Florida A&M. Xavier is bringing in the 29th-best 2016 recruiting class (according to 247Sports), and Mack returns a solid core of players.
Moreover, Bernard’s numbers become slightly less impressive when one realizes that Florida A&M went 8-21 last season. Production is grand, but if it doesn’t result in winning, what good is it?
That’s the reality check.
The good news, primarily for Xavier, is that Bernard won’t be asked to duplicate the sort of production that made him a Second Team All-MEAC member last season. Mack will play him in order to add depth to his squad and parlay some of his better attributes — defense and rebounding — into actual success. Other more polished members of the squad will get more consistent minutes, but Bernard’s value could be profound in spots.
Mack knows what he is getting with Bernard. He isn’t an unknown commodity, as are many incoming recruits. The situation presents an opportunity for him to better game plan and set up his rotation. That’s a luxury rarely afforded a program who is losing as much production as the Musketeers.
At the very worst, Bernard will add depth to the squad. Xavier has added a veteran who can guide younger teammates through the pitfalls that can come with being a college basketball player who is also supposed to get good grades.
The best-case scenario, while still not a game changer in the way a top-tier recruit would be, is that Bernard plays quality minutes for Xavier and replaces some of the production lost in the yearly attritional battle each college basketball program has to deal with.
Luckily for the Musketeers, they are replacing production with tangible production, not the mere idea of it. That’s a scarce commodity in a sport that often values the concept of reloading through the recruiting trail than taking a gamble on a graduate transfer from a small program.
Chris Mack — by valuing actual, tangible production over an elusive conceptual framework — hopes his trust in Malcolm Bernard has not been misplaced.