NAIA Player Spotlight: Xaviar Gaona – Univ. of Pikeville (KY)
It is safe to say that Xaviar Gaona was overlooked coming out of Kilgore High School in Texas. East Texas is usually known for its football, and while Xaviar was a good QB, his passion was for basketball. That is what he had his heart set on playing in college. Even with a junior college right there in town, Xaviar decided to get out of Kilgore and attend Hill JC (TX). Xaviar was a relentless worker, and although there were more highly touted players on the roster at Hill, his hard work, energy, and effort earned him a starting spot on the nationally recognized JUCO team. Gaona is really appreciative of his parents, siblings, and coaches who believed in him and gave him the chance. Without them in his life he doesn’t know where he would have ended up.
Ultimately, those people in his life are the ones that helped him get to University of Pikeville (KY). They believed in him, but also pushed him. Xaviar knew that UPIKE would do the same. For him, the biggest draw on where to go play basketball after junior college was the chance to win, and compete for national championships. When UPIKE offered him a scholarship he knew that he wanted to be apart of that winning culture. As he put it “Why wouldn’t I pick UPIKE?”
He didn’t wait long to make his impact felt at UPIKE. Not just with his smile crossing campus either. Xaviar proved once again that he can hoop! This season he averaged 10.8 points, and 4.7 rebounds per game. Xaviar gives the coaching staff a lot of credit for his early success, and really enjoys playing for Coach Kelly Wells. It is no secret across NAIA, that Coach Wells is a big part of the winning culture that UPIKE has. Xaviar said that Coach Wells is a one of a kind Coach. He said that Coach Wells pushed them to be better all year long, even when tough times hit during the season, Coach kept pushing them forward. Xaviar said that without him pushing them, there is no way they would have made it to the NAIA DI Quarter Finals. Coach Wells, is one of the winningest active coaches in NAIA. He understands the grind of the season, and kept the team focused on the vision at hand. Xaviar appreciated the fact that Coach Wells, no matter if it was a good practice or a bad one, never gave up on making the team become a better version of themselves as players and students.
The Mid-South once again proved why it is one of the best leagues in the country as they put two teams in the final eight, and league rival Georgetown won the National Title. Xaviar played well enough to earn a 2nd team All Mid-South selection. He said that the league has a bunch of bucket getters and it’s tough each and every night. Xaviar said that if you don’t come out with the mamba mentality and the willingness to go at your opponent, that you’ll be in trouble. Xaviar loves playing against some of the best teams and players in all of NAIA.
While basketball is what drove Xaviar to UPIKE. Xaviar’s jumping ability landed him on the UPIKE Track and Field team as well. Being a two-sport athlete wasn’t enough for Xaviar though. He wanted to be a two sport NAIA National Qualifier. He accomplished that as he qualifed for nationals in the Triple Jump, where he placed 12th in the nation.
Despite being a two-sport athlete, and competing at Nationals in both sports, graduating remains his top goal headed into his senior season. He is also looking forward to having a big role as a returner and as a leader. He said that he is ready to show the new guys the ropes and what it’s going to take to have another successful season, and hopefully compete for a national title. While success to him begins with the degree he will earn at the end of the year, Xaviar still has personal goals of winning a national title on the court, and returning to Track nationals, and winning a Gold medal there as well. Xaviar has always been a kid who has flown under the radar, and been carried by out working others. There is no doubt that a big senior season awaits him and the UPIKE athletic programs.