James Farr had gone from getting 23 points and 13 boards a night in prep school to a spot at the end of the Xavier bench. His 1.2-points-per-game average was a result of garbage-time minutes.
Many nights, Farr never even got out of his warmups. He racked up 18 DNPs, as in Did Not Play.
A lot of freshmen in that position would have bolted to where more playing time was available.
“It was difficult, but I didn’t think about leaving,” Farr said. “My faithfulness for Xavier never wavered. I loved this school. This is my dream school. This is the school I always wanted to attend.
“Of course, it was difficult. But I waited my turn. I was patient. I kept my mouth closed and paid attention. It’s worked out for me.”
Indeed, it has.
Farr, a 6-foot-10, 244-pound senior, is averaging 10.3 points (twice his career best) and leading Xavier at 8.3 rebounds a game.
It’s been a long road to get there. Farr averaged 4.6 points as a sophomore and 4.2 last year before breaking through this season and becoming one of the key players on a deep Xavier team.
As Farr said, that takes patience. His coach, Chris Mack, said it also takes character.
“I think it starts with his character,” Mack said. “So many young people today want everything instantly, my kids especially. They see something and they want it. They have to have it right now. And then it sits on their shelf for the next couple weeks until they want something else. And I just think that's how our society is. It's not like James was immune, but he was also willing to work through the process.”
Farr’s best attribute was his ability to work the boards. He’s still a ferocious rebounder — he got 19 at Marquette on Jan. 16 — but he’s become a much better shooter.
The numbers show how much better. Last year, he shot 46.9 percent from the free-throw line and 42.7 percent from the field. This year, he’s shooting 79 percent from the line and 55.8 from the field.
“That’s spending a lot of time in the gym,” he said. “It’s also about confidence. The more reps I get in the game, the more comfortable I am.”
He’s also getting to the free-throw line twice as often as last year.
“I think he also throughout his career has trusted our coaching staff,” Mack said. “He has a really close relationship with Mike Pegues, who's been instrumental in his development from a face-up forward, if you will, to now being way more comfortable with his back to the basket, which puts him in incredible position to offensive rebound, because he's closer to the bucket. He's always been a good defensive rebounder. There are some other things that, I think, because he's in the post, he's developed the ability to throw out and find guys when he's doubled.
“I couldn't be happier for James' development.”
Farr is equally pleased. This has been a magical year for Xavier. The Muskies are 21-2 and ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. A school-first Final Four shot is not out of the realm of possibility.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s our chemistry. We all love each other. We love to run the floor together. … We look out for each other. We play aggressive, and we only care about winning.”
So how did Xavier become the dream school for a kid from Evanston, Illinois? Farr was a high school teammate of Dee Davis, and both were recruited by Indiana.
“Dee visited Xavier,” Farr said. “He told the coaches to recruit me.
Now that it’s all worked out for Farr, he’s trying to put together a strong finale to his career.
“My time here is dwindling down,” he said. “It’s how I want to go out as a senior, what kind of legacy I want to leave here. I’ve never really been a winner here — not at the level we’re at now. I want to make sure we keep this going.”
John Fay is freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.