Jan. 12, 2014
By SEAN BRENNAN
In our latest installment of "GETTING TO KNOW...," we catch up with Xavier sophomore guard SEMAJ CHRISTON, who talks about adjusting to the Musketeers' new life in the BIG EAST, winning an award no Xavier player can ever win again and why his unusual first name might not be as exotic as you think.
BIGEAST.com: Coming over from the Atlantic 10 means having to get used to playing in new arenas as well as learning new opponents. Is it like starting from scratch for you this season?
CHRISTON: "Yeah that part of it I feel it's like starting all over again. I thought after going through my freshman year things would have been easier this year. But then we moved to the BIG EAST I found everything is different, everything is bigger. There are bigger crowds and bigger buildings and the players are better. You're playing against opponents that you're not used to playing against. Everybody's bigger. When we played St. John's (in Xavier's conference opener) that was a bigger team and we weren't used to playing against the bigger teams." (NOTE: Xavier defeated St. John's, 70-60).
BIGEAST.com: How has the adjustment period been so far for you and the team?
CHRISTON: "Not too bad. Coach (Chris) Mack just tells us just to stay together so we've been able to do that so far." (It should be noted that Xavier is off to a 3-1 start in the BIG EAST).
BIGEAST.com: You were the first ever Xavier player to win the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award and were also the first XU freshman to be named to the A-10 All-Conference team as a second teamer. No other Xavier player will ever be able to top you, now that Xavier is in the BIG EAST. Does this make you the best player nobody knows about the in the BIG EAST because many fans haven't seen you play yet?
CHRISTON: "Probably. Yeah I think so. I'm the least known best player in the BIG EAST right now. But I don't think I'll have any problem at all holding my own in the BIG EAST."
BIGEAST.com: You attended LeBron James' and Kyrie Irving's summer camps this past summer. What was that experience like and what did you learn from them?
CHRISTON: "Both camps were great. There was really great competition there. What I learned the most was how to talk, how to be a leader. And that's something that Coach Mack had preached to me freshman year because I wouldn't say anything. I would just play. If I saw something last year I'd just let it go. This year I have to speak up and teach the young guys. That was the biggest thing I learned in the camps, how to talk and how to be a leader, be a vocal leader rather than just showing leadership by the way I play. It was a great opportunity to get better but to have fun, too."
BIGEAST.com: Who has had the biggest influence on your career so far?
CHRISTON: "I'd have to say my AAU coach Dennis Thomas. I played for him with Club Ohio. He taught me a lot of things. First off he taught me to be tough all the time. Don't go down without a fight. He taught me how to win. When we'd lose he'd be (angry). So now when I lose I'm (angry).
BIGEAST.com: Coach Mack asked you to shoulder a lot of responsibility last season as a freshman, especially scoring. How do you see this season shaping up for you?
CHRISTON: "This year will be a little different because I won't have to score as much. I can play more point guard. Last year I had to throw up a lot of shots but this year I can get a little bit more back into my comfort zone. (NOTE: Christon tossed in a career-best 28 points in Xavier's win over Marquette Thursday night).
BIGEAST.com: With the Bengals eliminated from the NFL playoffs and Xavier having defeated city rival Cincinnati, 64-47, already this season, does this make Xavier basketball the hottest ticket in Cincinnati now?
CHRISTON: "Probably. I think with the Xavier fans we're definitely the hottest ticket in town. We're doing pretty good. We beat UC and that was a big win for us. Now I can walk around town with my Xavier stuff on. We got bragging rights."
BIGEAST.com: You are already off to a great start so how do you see Xavier faring in the BIG EAST this season?
CHRISTON: "I think we'll do pretty good. We'll hold our own and as the season goes on I think it's only going to get better for us."
BIGEAST.com: Is there one arena you're most looking forward to playing in this season?
CHRISTON: "Oh yeah, when we play St. John's at the Garden. I've never been there. That will be big for us. (Xavier visits the Garden to play the Johnnies on Feb. 25).
BIGEAST.com: Ok, your first name is rather unusual. Is there a story behind it? Is it a family name? Does it mean something in another language?
CHRISTON: "No. not really. It's just JAMES spelled backwards."