Sunday, August 30, 2009

Justin Jackson to UC

Power forward Justin Jackson has made the oral pledge to the Cincinnati Bearcats. The 6-8 220 pound Jackson is prepping at Montverde Academy in Florida. Jackson is rated as a three star prospect and #140 overall according to He has been described as a high energy player. He chose the 'Cats over Missouri.

Mick Cronin has stayed involved with Brandon Mobley and according to Jody Demling of the Louisville Courier Journal; UC is in his final 3. On paper Cincinnati has one scholarship left. If Mobley pops for the 'Cats they would find room for near super wing Jelan Kendrick if he would want to matriculate to Clifton as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Justin Martin to Xavier

Chris Mack added a third piece to his 2010 recruiting class Sunday afternoon. Justin Martin from Indianapolis Lawrence North High School made his pledge to the Musketeers. The one time Louisville commit is rated #83 overall by in the 2010 class and boasts 4 stars. He fits the need at the '3' spot very well. He is long and his shooting is exceptional. His relationship with Travis Steele certainly helped seal the deal for Xavier. He joins a class that boasts two other top 150 Rivals players in Jay Canty and Jordan Latham. Welcome to Victory Parkway Justin!

Justin became Mack's second player from Lawrence North HS (Jeff Robinson as well) and Indy is a good place to have a recruiting pipeline set up. Mack has now added his third top 150 level player and this class is starting to stack up favorable against X's 2008 class in terms of pre college rankings.

Hot rumors are Xavier is after one more player for the 2010 class and that is Griffin McKenzie out of Moeller HS. The PF/C recruit recently joined Rivals 150 for 2010 off his strong play earlier this summer. Griff landed at #115 when Rivals updated their rankings and just completed his first official visit to Northwestern. He will take officials in the coming weeks to Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Xavier is his fourth 'finalist' and the one he obviously knows the most about. IF Mack and staff can get Griffin on board they will have done an excellent job on the recruiting trail this summer. I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am with the job Mack has done in that regard thus far.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cincinnati 2009-2010 Season Outlook

The Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team had a very interesting off season. First we seen the departures of Mike Williams and Alvin Mitchell from the team. Williams was not granted a sixth year by the NCAA due to his medical injuries. The UC fans I know are glad Mitchell is not part of the 2009-2010 roster. George Jackson was added to the staff. Coach Jackson will certainly bring strong recruiting acumen to this city and great experience working with Louis Orr at Seton Hall and most recently Bowling Green. John Riek was returning, then he wasn't, instead landing in Starkville, MS. However the BIGGEST news of the offseason was the addition of "Born Ready" Lance Stephenson.

Lance joins a three man recruiting class including Sean Kilpatrick and Jaquon Parker. Redshirt transfers Eddie Tyree (Thomas More) and Ibrahima Thomas (Oklahoma State) also join the returnees. And we finally get a chance to see Cash Wright play the '1' for UC in addition to all the other newcomers. Mick Cronin has done a great job on the recruiting trail in assembling this year's Bearcat team.

Here's a quick look at the roster:

1 Cashmere Wright 6-0 175 Redshirt Fr.: As noted above Cash will finally get a chance to display his talents. After suffering his knee injury last year very early in the season you know he is itching to get out there. Bearcat fans need to temper expectations for Cash, considering he not only is coming off injury but will be a freshmen at the hardest position on the floor. Judging by what I saw in the Deveroes Summer League he is a first class point guard prospect and will help the team sooner rather than later. He has long arms which assist in deflections and steals. Nice halfcourt moves in Cash's aresenal as well give him plenty of ability to score from the point guard spot. He will need to continue to add strength to survive the rigors of the Big East Conference.

2 Eddie Tyree 5-10 175 Redshirt Jr.: First year player in UC program sat out last year as a transfer from Thomas More College. He is a walk on who had moderate success on the NCAA D3 level.

3 Dion Dixon 6-3 195 So.: Dion proved himself a nice scoring option for UC off the bench last season. Dixon averaged 7.3 ppg but has improvement to make in his three point shooting (30%). Still Dion is a strong guard with plenty of scoring tools. With the additions of Kilpatrick, Stephenson, Parker, and Wright minutes may be even harder to come by for Dion this year but he has tons of potential to develop.

5 Deonta Vaughn 6-1 190 Sr.: Vaughn has been Mr. Everything for the Bearcats his first three seasons. Last year he poured in 15.3 ppg, played 36 minutes a night, dished out close to five dimes a game, and snagged four rebounds each time out to boot. He finally has plenty of pieces and options around him to pull opposing defenses off of him. It should be a big year for Deonta again. Last season he garnered all Big East honors for his efforts. No doubt his goal is to make the NCAA tournament and he will certainly do everything he can to make that happen.

10 Alex Eppensteiner 6-3 210 Fr.: I do not know much about Alex. He is from Cincinnati and from Elder high school. He is listed on the roster already so he must be an 'invited' walk on.

11 Larry Davis 6-3 195 Jr.: It seems like Larry has been around longer than two seasons. He started 25 games last year and his key proficiency is three point shooting. He nailed them at a 35% clip last year helping him score 6.8 ppg. Larry essentially split time with Dixon at the off guard position last year. Davis will have to work even harder this year to garner over twenty minutes a night.

15 Darnell Wilks 6-7 205 Jr.: Darnell is the type of player who would thrive in an uptempo get up and down the floor style of play. The trouble is the Big East isn't that type of league. The conference is a grind it out style of play for the most part. He averaged 8.4 mpg and 2.1 ppg in '08-'09 season. I will say this about Darnell: he was always one of the first players there at the Deveroes Summer League this year. With the improved wing depth on the team Wilks will have to do even more in practice to be on the floor.

22 Rashad Bishop 6-6 225 Jr.: Bishop started 29 games for Mick last season. He played a point forward role at times for the 'Cats. Averaging 5.4 ppg he also contributed 2.5 assists a game. His shooting was awful, both from distance and at the charity stripe, 26% and 52% respectively. That will need to improve if he is going to continue to be in the starting line up. His defense is solid and he possesses good size for the '3'.

23 Sean Kilpatrick 6-4 215 Fr.: Dubbed "Killa" by Jamal Walker in Deveroes Summer League for his ability to drain it from deep and it get to the rack off the bounce. Sean comes in with a reputation of being a very streaky scorer. ESPN's scouting report claims he has good, but not outstanding quickness. Their scouts also note he has questionable shot selection. I will say I was impressed with his ability in the DSL and can see him taking time away from others depending on his defense and improvement of shot selection.

30 Anthony McClain 7-0 255 Jr.: "Biggie" had trouble staying on the floor last year. He even had trouble getting on the floor at times. He played in 24 games and averaged under 7 minutes a night. Not something you would expect to see for a prospect that was once wooed by most of the powers in the Big East conference. He didn't stand out to me in summer league, but that style of play is usually not good to true post players. He needs to learn to use his tremendous frame to his advantage. Initiate contact, maintain it, and power his way to the offensive bucket for starters. A little more strength in his lower trunk would benefit Anthony in a big way. He doesn't appear to play the game with very much intensity.

32 Ibrahima Thomas 6-11 230 Jr.: Transfer from Oklahoma State will join the team after the first quarter is over at UC. He is more of a power forward than a true center and can get up and down the floor in a hurry. He was a starter for the Cowboys who fell out of favor with new coach Travis Ford. His length and ability will be a boon to the 'Cats once the Big East season rolls around.

33 Lance Stephenson 6-5 210 Fr.: If "Born Ready" is "NCAA Ready" watch out. He is an elite level prospect that is hard to guard. Rated as a top 15 player prospect by all scouting services in his class many predict he will be one season and done in Clifton. He is a scorer of the highest class. Very aggressive on the offensive end and he will use his strength to overcome smaller players. He will use his handle and deep shooting range to take taller players to school. Defense is most likely an afterthought to Lance right now. Mick and staff will make that a priority this fall without question with Lance. Just having Lance on the floor makes the Bearcats legitimate NCAA tournament contenders.

34 Yancy Gates 6-9 260 So.: Yancy is a "man child" to say the least. His rookie campaign yielded stats of 10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and a team leading 32 blocks. The Withrow High School grad also made 17 starts. The number of starts should go up. IF Yancy plays hard all the time he has a chance to make a whole lot of money playing this game. As big as Stephenson, Vaughn, and Wright are to the team Gates could hold the key to how well they do in the Big East.

42 Steve Toyloy 6-8 255 Sr.: Steve is a very serviceable post player. His stats from last season are not gaudy (3.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) but he has the requisite size and grit to do battle in the post in the Big East. I see him starting alongside Yancy at the beginning of the season.

44 Jaquon Parker 6-3 210 Fr.: I did not get a chance to see Jaquon play this summer as he arrived on campus late. The Suffolk, VA native originally committed to Old Dominion but received serious interest from Virginia and Georgetown when announcing he would not reclassify to 2010 class. I have read he has a strong basketball IQ and is capable of playing all three perimeter positions. Most scouting services remark he has the makeup of a solid defender.

This should be the year the Bearcats return to the NCAA tournament. If they can avoid the late season swoons that have plagued them the last two years they will be in great shape. In a supposed down year in the Big East the opportunity is there. The roster finally boasts depth at every position and talented depth at that. Anything less than the NCAA will make life hard on Mick Cronin.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Canty Chooses Xavier

Jay Canty from Jamestown, NC became the second piece to Xavier's 2010 recruiting class on Sunday evening. The small forward is currently rated #124 on top 150 ratings for his class. He joins Jordan Latham (#112) from Baltimore, MD in making the pledge to Xavier. The staff is continuing to recruit at a very high level. Jay originally made a verbal to High Point but backed off of that as he started to blow up on the recruiting trail. I watched with interest when Jay played in the AAU National Tournament in Orlando in late July. He played very well for his team (CP3 All Stars) against some terrific competition. Welcome to Xavier Jay. You made a great choice.

I feel the staff has two more scholarships to award for this class. On paper it appears just one but a couple scenarios could play out opening the fourth. If that is the case I would love to add Griffin McKenzie from Moeller and Justin Martin from Lawrence North in Indianapolis. Griffin seems to be down to X, Wake Forest, and Vanderbilt. J-Mart had X high on his list before his commit to Louisville. I have a strong feeling that McKenzie will end up at Xavier. Justin has supposed academic issues to work out which could delay his final decision until spring. Both receive high marks in regards to shooting the basketball which I put a premium on. Many Xavier fans (such as myself) are also wondering how things with JD Weatherspoon will settle. Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Xavier 2009-2010 Season Outlook

With summer league ball winding down it is a good time to focus on the Musketeers season outlook for next season. Of course the old coach packed up and headed out west for new challenges and opportunities. Derrick Brown also headed off to the NBA and I would argue that loss is just as big as losing the coach. In turn once again Xavier will be breaking in a rookie head coach but this one has seen XU from every level. Coach Mack is receiving his first coaching gig at a place known to develop them. Chris also made excellent choices in selecting his first staff. Pat Kelsey (XU '98) was named associate head coach after turning down the opportunity to replace Shaka Smart on the Florida Gator staff. Orlando 'Bino' Ranson has strong connections in the Baltimore area which is a hotbed for talent. Young Travis Steele brings energy and high basketball IQ to the staff. Not to be overlooked with Steele is all the connections he has in the Hoosier state with high school and AAU coaches. I think this staff will continue to recruit at a high level. There is no doubt they will work hard at it as witnessed by Jeff Goodman's recent blog post. He made mention that Mack had been on the road for 18 of the 20 evaluation days in this July period.

On to the roster:

#3 Brian Walsh 6-4 195 (R)Fr - Brian played in 8 games last year in a very limited role before shutting it down due to injury. He received a medical redshirt and will be considered a freshmen for this season. The western Pennsylvania native is largely an unknown to Xavier fans. He came in with a reputation as a good defender with a nice jumpshot. His development will certainly be a key component to how Xavier does this season. Brian's best opportunity for playing time may come at the small forward spot this year.

#10 Mark Lyons 6-1 185 (R)Fr - "Cheeks" is a high riser and potential impact player for the Muskies this season. He seems to have the skill set to produce points in bunches. He attacks the basket and is very good off the bounce. Lyons can play the point position but I like him better at the "2". He will certainly see minutes at both spots this year. I expect him to have typical freshmen ups and downs but he may be fill the 6th man scorer's role for X. Expectedly how well he plays defense will ultimately determine the amount of minutes he receives.

#12 Brad Redford 6-0 170 So - Brad appears to have added a few pounds of muscle this summer. He looked stronger handling the ball in the two summer league games I watched him in. He was the only freshmen to play in all 35 games last season. He averaged 5.1 ppg in 08-09. Of his 123 field goal attempts, 114 were from behind the arc. Redford hit those at .46% clip. Don't expect those numbers to deviate much this season. His role on the team is clearly defined. Unlike others however I feel Brad can develop into more than a poor man's JJ Redick. It will be hard for him to get much time at point due to other guards on the roster who play there. But as witnessed last year he forces defensive game plans to be altered. He (like Lyons) has the potential to be the first guy off the bench.

#13 Stephen Duckett 6-4 190 Jr - Duckett is a walk on who appeared in 11 games last year. This will be his third season as part of the team and should be valuable to the team as a practice player.

#15 Andy Taylor 6-8 205 Jr - The "Sheriff" battled some injury issues last year and only appeared in 9 games. I wouldn't expect him to play on a regular basis this year barring injury to other frontcourt players. Taylor certainly shows flashes of talent and is a hard worker but not an A10 level player.

#21 Jeff Robinson 6-9 210 Fr - Jeff is the newest member to the roster. He is from Lawrence North high school which is a powerhouse in Indianapolis. They produce talent year after year. Certainly Robinson did not put up great numbers in high school but he played with some of the best talent in the '09 and '10 classes. At the alumni steak fry this year Coach Mack said there was urgency to sign a big man after Derrick Brown stayed in the draft. Purdue backed off his pledge citing academic issues but the truth is Jeff was overrecruited. Heading into his senior season he held offers from Illinois, Butler, and Purdue so the talent is there. I saw him play once this summer and he looked closer to 6-8 200 to me and very timid. However I was impressed by how active he was on the boards and how he ran the floor.

#22 Jamel McLean 6-8 235 Jr - Hard to believe a guy who averaged 4.4 points the previous season will play such a huge role for the Musketeers. That's exactly what Jamel will need to do if Xavier is to continue expected success. He is a live wire and very active body in the low post and around the glass. McLean needs to continue to work on his low post moves. He is very quick and can draw plenty 'and one' calls from officials. BUT he needs to improve the awful .46% from the free throw line as he will be on the floor in many end game situations this season. Or at least you would like to have him out there at the end of games. He played in all 35 games but seemed to hit a wall halfway through before bouncing back in the end. Jamel has plenty of talent and with an improved free throw shot could be a most improved player in the league candidate for the A10 next season.

#25 Dante' Jackson 6-5 205 Jr - Leader. Winner. These are words that come to my mind when thinking of Jackson. I would never say Jackson has the best skill set out there but he is versatile and has a knack for hitting big shots. He also seems to step up in the big games. Refer to the first halves of the Shootout and second game against UD in 08-09. I feel he will not see nearly as much time at the point this season but that experience certainly did not hurt him. Jackson received 22 starts in 35 contests and played around 27 minutes a night. He fills the role of defensive stopper so he should be on the floor even more this season. My best guess is he will start at the '3' spot but that will be determined in fall practices. He is Xavier's second leading returning scorer at 6.6 ppg.

#31 Jason Love 6-9 255 Sr - "Big Lovely" is the lone senior on the roster. He inches out Jackson as the leading returning scorer at 6.7 ppg. Jason started all 35 contests last year. By his own admission he said he played heavier weight wise later in the year which affected his productivity. Seeing him around campus this summer he appears much trimmer. Expect him to be on the floor at times with Kenny Frease this year at the '4' spot depending on matchups and foul issues. Love was the leading rebounder on the team at 5.9 per game and he snatched 84 offensive caroms. It would be beneficial to him and the team if he developed another post move or two for his arsenal.

#32 Kenny Frease 7-0 265 So - Kenny brought some moxy and toughness to the roster last year and should do the same this season. He did not have the impact many thought he would have on the offensive end of the floor in his first season. Frease averaged 5.4 ppg in 34 contests. His size and length made a difference on the defensive end of the floor. His first half in the Sweet 16 game he more than held his own against DeJuan Blair. If he can have more games like that he will assuredly average more than the 14 minutes a night he got last year. He clearly needs to refine his low block moves and improve his free throw shooting from .49%. Ken has a nice touch on his face up jumper so I am hopeful his charity shooting will come around. Frease had a couple "Laimbeer" moments last year against Gates from UC and Olmos from Temple. But I like some nastiness in my seven footers and X won both of those games. I suspect Kenny is another year away from putting it all together at this level but when he does watch out.

#33 Joe Hughes 6-6 200 Jr - Joe is another walk on who has been on the team for three years. He appeared in 11 games last year and averaged 0.6 ppg. To me Hughes could play on scholarship at a low major school but he serves his role well at XU.

#52 Terrell Holloway 6-0 185 So - Terrell had a lot of pressure on him last year as the only true point guard eligible to play. He did lead all freshmen in scoring at 5.5 ppg. He received 13 starts in his 33 appearances and missed some time due to injury. It was revealed Terrell and his family were at odds with the old coach over perceived mistreatment. Hopefully the change at the top will allow "Tutu" to further blossom. Holloway was a big reason XU won two of their more notable non conference victories last season against Memphis and Missouri. With some experience and more options at the lead guard role Terrell has a chance to take a big step up with his productivity and role on the team.

#55 Jordan Crawford 6-4 195 (R)So - Jordan will make his long awaited debut for Xavier this season. Crawford averaged 9.7 ppg on a loaded Indiana roster in 2007-2008. Everybody has heard (if not seen) about the dunk against Lebron. Crawford commented it wasn't that big of a deal (and it wasn't) and he wished people would talk more about his overall play at the camp. I saw him go off in a couple games this summer. He should be the guy who gets his number called when X has to have a bucket. I hope Jordan is ready to be the "man" because that role is open on this team with the loss of Anderson, Brown, and Raymond. I believe the talk of one season and done is very premature but if that happens Xavier will have had a great year.

Clearly this will be a transistion year for the Musketeers. The nonconference schedule is designed to get this team in the NCAA tournament. Games on the road against Wake Forest, Kansas State, Butler, and Florida will be tremendous challenges. Also Xavier will get quality comp in the Old Spice Classic that features Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Florida St., Marquette and Michigan. Finally home games against LSU and Cincinnati should present opportunities for quality wins. In conference Richmond, LaSalle, Dayton, Charlotte, and Temple all should be tough. I remember the last coach was 17-12 his first year at XU. My hope is Mack will keep the losses under double digits with his first squad.

There are several keys to Xavier returning to the NCAA tournament in 2009-2010. First and foremost Mack's coaching ability. Secondly, and not to be overlooked, is how much improvement happens with the sophomore class. Redford, Holloway, Frease, and Crawford will all need to have impact roles on this team. Also on paper we don't return much scoring statistically but there is plenty of scoring ability on this team. If the Muskies can fare well out of conference it should be a huge lift once conference play starts in terms of confidence. I cannot wait for the second weekend of November to arrive and see how the season plays out over the course of next winter.