Romain Sato's English isn't quite perfect yet, but his manners
are. Sato, the Musketeers' 6'5" junior shooting guard from the
Central African Republic, is so polite that the first time he
worked out for Xavier coach Thad Matta, he said, "Thank you,
Coach," every time Matta rebounded his shot and passed it back to
him. "After about the 10th time, I told him he could just save
them all up and give me one big thank you at the end," says
Matta. "He said, 'O.K., thank you, Coach.'"
Sato probably feels grateful to opposing teams every time they
collapse on Musketeers senior David West, the team's star and a
two-time Atlantic 10 player of the year. The extra attention on
West often leaves Sato open on the perimeter, where he can show
off his lethal shooting stroke. He shot 41.5% from three-point
range last season and averaged 18.3 points in conference games.
Two of Sato's finest performances came in the NCAA tournament,
where he had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a first-round win over
Hawaii, then burned Oklahoma for 28 points in the Musketeers'
second-round loss. It was an especially impressive showing for a
player who wasn't introduced to basketball until he was 14. Sato
didn't take up hoops seriously until he came to the U.S. in 1999
as a high school senior in a foreign exchange program. In his
only season at Dayton (Ohio) Christian, Sato averaged 26.4 points
and 15.6 rebounds, and he was named Ohio's Mr. Basketball.
With four returning starters, including West, who surprised even
Matta by deciding not to enter the NBA draft, the Musketeers
should win their second straight Atlantic 10 title. A longer stay
in the tournament could also be in the offing, especially if 6'9"
freshman center Will Caudle, who practiced with the team but
didn't play in games last year because of his partial qualifier
status, can help West with the rebounding and interior defense.
Xavier is deep and experienced, and West and Sato give them an
inside-outside combination that few teams can match. By season's
end, Sato won't be the only Musketeer who feels like giving
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO X FACTOR When teams double-team West, the athletic Sato (above) makes them pay with his lethal stroke.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
PF David West 6'9" Sr. 18.3 ppg
SF Dave Young 6'5" Sr. 8.0 ppg
C Will Caudle 6'9" Fr. 7.0 rpg*
SG Romain Sato 6'5" Jr. 16.1 ppg
PG Lionel Chalmers 6'0" Sr. 4.2 apg
*As high school senior
2001-02 RECORD: 26-6 (14-2, 1st in A-10 West)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Oklahoma in 2nd round
Rebounds needed by David West to become the fourth player in
school history to reach 1,000 boards in his career.
An opposing coach's view
The Musketeers pack quite a one-two punch with West and Sato
"They have superior mental and physical toughness. They love to
knock you on your ass and not help you up.... David West is
extremely difficult to guard one-on-one. You have to send people
at him and make him give the ball up because he has a complete
offensive game.... Romain Sato may be their best player. He's
unbelievably athletic, a prototypical NBA wing player. Once he
makes one [shot], the floodgates really open.... Overall, they're
not a great shooting team. You have to make them try to beat you
from the outside.... Lionel Chalmers has great speed, and he's
very competitive. If you can get him to play faster, he'll turn
it over some.... When they signed swingman Keith Jackson two
years ago, everybody thought, Oh, damn. He's been a role player,
but he could have an impact for them."