52 days of isolation hasn’t hampered Xavier DuSell
LARAMIE -- Fifty-two days.
That's 1,248 hours.
That's 74,880 minutes.
That's how much time Xavier DuSell has been forced to quarantine during his first year in college. Wyoming's freshman guard hasn't even had COVID-19 either.
"That sounds about right," DuSell said Wednesday, referring to those agonizing days of isolation. "... I just did prison workouts; kettle bells and whatever else they gave me."
The virus forced a mandatory two-week quarantine when DuSell arrived from his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona last summer. Then came another. And another. He joked that he never even got to meet his new teammates aside from phone calls, text messages and Zoom meetings.
DuSell has never even been in a college classroom. Those take place on his computer screen in a small house he's living in off campus.
"I didn't have much contact with anyone," he said. "You just have to keep moving and adjust."
That last sentence describes exactly what DuSell has done on the court, too.
Through a five-game stretch in December and early January, the rookie was struggling. He averaged just 2.8 points per game. He was held off the score sheet twice. A pair of outings resulted in three points or less.
To make matters worse, he was seeing roughly 10 minutes of playing time during that period. Those numbers are skewed because one was a 21-minute night against Denver. In reality, DuSell was averaging just over seven minutes.
With Boise State coming to town for the opening of Mountain West Conference play on Jan. 11, DuSell said he made a decision -- it was time to step up. Seeing limited minutes and barely pitching in is not why he came to Laramie.
"I know what I'm capable of," he said. "That starts on the defensive end. My defense triggers my offense. They compliment each other. I needed to be more aggressive and get my teammates involved."
Wyoming's first-year head coach has taken notice.
"It was going to take him a little bit longer than maybe some of the other guys, getting in shape and getting ready to go," Jeff Linder said, referring to all those stoppages due to the pandemic. "But he's a guy that is a really, really bright kid. He's a really smart player. He's one of those guys that you tell him something once, he knows what's going on and is usually not going to make the same mistake twice."
DuSell dropped 10 points on the Broncos that night on 3-of-5 shooting from the field. He sank a pair of threes, too.
He hasn't looked back.
In the next 11 league games, the freshman has hit double digits in scoring seven times. He has nailed 30 triples. Against Air Force back on Jan. 18, DuSell scored a career-high 19 points. That included a 5-for-9 night behind the arc.
According to Linder, DuSell has also been one of the Cowboys' top defenders down the stretch.
"When you saw him back in October -- you saw him coming off these (COVID-19) pauses -- you're like, 'man, I'm not sure you're going to be able to guard anybody at this level,'" Linder said. "Then, lo and behold, he's been one of our best defenders. I mean, he's a guy that just understand the angles. He's got such a good feel for the game, which allows the game to come easy for him."
A week ago today, DuSell got off to an 0-6 start from the field against New Mexico. Instead of losing confidence, he briefly abandoned the long ball and started to drive the lane. He went up, under and around the Lobos interior size and length. The pretty shots started to fall. So did the hard-earned ones.
DuSell netted all 14 of his points in the second half. Wyoming prevailed 83-74 in overtime.
Despite being ejected from the game after being hit with a couple of technical fouls with one minutes remaining in the half, Linder was able to relay a halftime message to his guard -- get to the rim.
"You have to be more than a catch-and-shoot guy," Linder said.
Linder did say above that you don't have to tell DuSell the same thing twice.
"That game was kind of weird," DuSell said. "I wasn't able to find my shot or really get a handle on the ball early. I had to adjust and impact game in another way other than making threes. I started to go downhill and to the basket. The three will fall later on if you're versatile."
DuSell did hit a pair of those in the final 20 minutes.
Linder said Tuesday that he wants the guard to be even more aggressive offensively. The pressure that puts on the opposition -- and opens up for the guys in the same uniform -- is critical for this young squad. Linder said DuSell needs to get bigger and stronger. Everyone does. The virus has also hampered this roster across the board in that regard. Games, Linder said, is what they all need. DuSell, he added, is getting better each time out.
"He's provided a big spark for us," Linder said. "... Sometimes he just shoots it so well that you can get caught into just living behind the three-point line when we need another guy like him who has the ability to get by his guy and either get an easy basket or create an easy basket for somebody."
DuSell said all that time off when he first arrived in Laramie is irrelevant at this point. In fact, he says he "forgot it happened."
One thing that is undeniable, however, is the impact this pandemic has had on DuSell's college experience. He never saw it going down like this. DuSell has visited some local restaurants and strolled around downtown a few times. He said he's tried to embed himself in the community as much as he's permitted.
Has it been weird? Sure. But DuSell added he has nothing else to compared it to.
One thing, he said, is for certain -- he made the right decision.
"All I know is I'm happy being here and waking up every morning in Laradise," he said. "I'm proud to put on that Wyoming jersey everyday."