CINCINNATI -- The final image of Trevon Bluiett in the 2017 NCAA Tournament was emotional and raw, his jersey pulled over his head as he mourned Xavier’s loss to Gonzaga in the Elite Eight.
Some wondered if he had played his last game in a Musketeers uniform.
It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, considering the 6-foot-6 guard sought feedback from NBA teams the previous summer and was set to do the same before his senior year. Bluiett -- who was denied an invitation to the NBA Draft combine -- worked out for Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Indiana in the months after the Elite Eight run.
He ultimately decided to return to Xavier, but until Tuesday’s media day at Cintas Center, he never elaborated on his decision-making process.
“I came to school because I wanted to win a national championship, and that’s still my goal. As long as I’ve got a chance to play in college, why not take advantage of that year?” Bluiett said. “And the run that we had last year, just the bond that we built over that time. It’s kind of tough to leave that. I want to be the first team to go to a Final Four in school history, and I feel like we’ve got a chance to do that."
There’s something else, too.
Bluiett wants to earn his degree in sport management and become the first person in his immediate family to have a college diploma. He would be the first overall on his dad’s side and the first on his mom’s side since a cousin graduated several years ago.
“To be the first to do it in a while would be a good feeling,” Bluiett said.
Professional basketball will be there, one way or another.
Bluiett would prefer the NBA route, which is why he took teams’ advice seriously after his junior year. He was rewarded with positive reactions during his most recent workouts.
“(NBA personnel) were impressed with my body compared to last year when I went down there. They said that that was one major difference that they liked. I shot the ball a lot better than I did the previous year before that as well, and they liked that,” Bluiett said.
On the to-do list this year: Guarding his position the full length of the court and playing with a constant high motor on offense and defense.
Bluiett also has a chance to work his way deep into Xavier’s record books. He’s 15th on the Musketeers’ all-time scoring list with 1,585 points and could become the fifth player in program history to surpass 2,000 points. He needs just 548 points--– well below the 665 he scored as a junior -- to eclipse David West as Xavier’s second all-time leading scorer.
While Bluiett averaged 18.5 points last season and is known for his offensive productivity, coach Chris Mack has witnessed many other contributions during the preseason.
“I think some of the areas he’s grown (are) pick-and-roll, handling the ball, on the defensive end being in the right spot (and) he’s communicating more than he ever has in his first three years. It shows me he’s valuing the things outside of shooting the ball,” Mack said.
“Everybody in here knows that he can shoot the ball at a really, really high level but him doing the other things, and the little things, sends a huge message to our team. Quite honestly, it makes us a better team.”
Time has provided some distance from wounds of the past, like Xavier’s March loss to Gonzaga, but a blemish on Bluiett’s record in April is another story.
Bluiett, an Indianapolis native, was arrested on one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in Indiana. He spent 10 hours in the Hamilton County (Ind.) Jail.
“There’s really nothing in (jail) so all you have to do is think about what you did and how you got in the situation that you are," Bluiett said. "It kind of puts things in perspective. You’re hit with reality and it kind of makes you straighten up and get on the right path, and I think that’s something that it did for me."
Bluiett called his actions “a mistake” and “a good learning lesson” and said the arrest didn’t define his character. Because it was his first offense, he entered a diversion program and started community service.
“After a year everything is going to be back to normal,” Bluiett said.
Bluiett’s whereabouts next April are an intriguing thought. The Final Four is in San Antonio in late March and the national championship is April 2.
Before then, he has a chance to lead Xavier to a conference crown and amass personal milestones. He’s already a fixture on preseason All-America teams and he clinched a spot on the Big East’s preseason first team.
But Bluiett spends more time bringing the freshmen up to speed and strengthening bonds with veteran teammates like J.P. Macura and Sean O’Mara.
“I firmly believe that with team success comes individual success,” Bluiett said. “I’m more concerned with the team.”