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.

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