CINCINNATI (AP) — Forward Jalen Reynolds accompanied Xavier to Los Angeles for its Sweet 16 game while the school looked into a complaint filed against him by another student.
Coach Chris Mack said before the team left on Tuesday that the sophomore will play against second-seeded Arizona on Thursday night. Reynolds had a career-high 21 points in a win over Georgia State that sent the Musketeers (23-13) to their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last eight years.
A student filed the complaint against Reynolds with the school’s police department overnight Monday. Mack said it will take several weeks to investigate. The university said it can’t disclose the nature of the complaint because of student privacy laws.
“I will tell you that Jalen will be traveling with team, Jalen will be playing just like every other player on our team,” Mack said.
The game on Thursday will be the first time that Mack faces close friend Sean Miller, who was Xavier’s coach from 2004-09. Mack was his top assistant and moved up to the head coaching job when Miller left for Arizona.
Mack wishes they could have avoided going head-to-head.
“The part that’s fun is we’re playing for big stakes,” Mack said. “To be one of 16 teams that’s left standing in the country, that’s not easy to do.
“But as far as the personal experience of Sean’s on the sideline, I’m on the sideline — there is nothing that I enjoy about that experience because one of us is going to be devastated and one of us is going to move on.”
Mack said he learned from Miller that it’s important to have a systematic approach to everything so that players and coaches can grow together. He also saw the importance of establishing close relationships with players and making sure they know that the coaching staff cares about them.
The two of them became close even though they have very different personalities — Miller is more private, Mack more social. Or, as Mack joked on Tuesday: “I’m pretty cool and he’s not.”
Mack recalled only one time that Miller went out to celebrate after a win during his time at Xavier.
“I’m the complete opposite,” Mack said. “I celebrate like there’s never going to be another win.”
The two of them traded texts on Monday night, with Miller saying he was looking forward to seeing Mack’s family again.
Xavier and Arizona are two of the nine schools that have reached the Sweet 16 at least five times since 2008. Xavier has reached the Elite Eight twice — in 2004 under Thad Matta and in 2008 under Miller — but never a Final Four.
The Musketeers barely missed out on another trip to the Elite Eight in Mack’s first season as head coach, losing to Kansas State 101-96 in double overtime at a regional semifinal.
The sixth-seeded Musketeers have found their stride at the right time. A young team — only two senior scholarship players — grew up as the season went along and finished strong, winning five of its last six games. The only loss was in the championship of the Big East Tournament.
They’re considered heavy underdogs against Arizona, which is 33-3.
“I think it’s business like usual for us,” senior center Matt Stainbrook said. “We understand that, we hear what people say. But does it really affect us? No. Do we use it as motivation? Sometimes.
“But by no means are we ‘The Little Engine That Could.’ We’re not the Little Sisters of the Poor. We’re Xavier basketball. We’ve been to the Sweet 16 once or twice. It’s one of those things that people can say what they want and we’ll listen, we’ll hear it, we’ll digest it, but what it comes down to is how we’re playing and that’s about it.”
Asked whether the Sweet 16 game is a big moment to him, Mack said, “We have bigger moments in mind.”
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.