With UC basketball beginning practice this evening, here's the second part of my one-on-one interview with Mick Cronin. The first part ran last week, and you can find it here. Without further ado:
KatzontheCats: Tell me about the front court (Yancy Gates, Steve Toyloy) and how much those guys will improve for this season.
Cronin: They all get better as they get older. We all want them to be good right away, but that's not how it always happens. Some guys, you take it to the junior year. I can tell you Steve Toyloy is in tremendous shape. He had a great offseason. Not that he's all of a sudden going to be the best scorer, but he's going to have a better year. He didn't graduate from Miami-Dade (Community College) until last August, so he had zero preparation time.
KOTC: What about the juniors? Guys like Larry Davis, Rashad Bishop and Darnell Wilks. Is there a chance a few of them might fall by the wayside because of all the young talent?
Cronin: Our guys all know that you have to be effective to get on the floor. You have to contribute. Larry Davis is a guy who plays with maximum effort at all times. He's an integral member of our team with the way he's gotten better with his ball skills, as far as ball-handling and passing and developing a pace to his game. He brings a lot to the table. His injury at Pitt last year really, really hurt us in a major way. He was playing great basketball, and he's got great toughness. With all those guys- Darnell Wilks is a great athlete and Rashad is a consumate team player - the experience factor is one. Two is our style of play. We're going to play at a much faster pace and be able to have 10 guys who can play. You have to play your bench, and your substitution takes care of itself. For me, I'm looking forward to having guys who know what they're doing out there. Because they've been here, they know what they're doing.
KOTC: You guys have been getting a lot of hype from some national analysts. How do you think you guys will handle that kind of success?
Cronin: Really? I don't see all that stuff. I've been hard on the recruiting trail and getting ready for my daughter's birthday.
KOTC: Well, some people have you in the top-four in the Big East.
Cronin: It's something you have to address
every year as a coach because of all the hype surrounding every team. You're going
to be better, you've got that guy, you've got this guy. Welcome to our league.
You look at our roster, and it's impressive. But so are about 10-12 rosters in
our conference. OK? Now you worry about what the character is of a winning team
and winners in general. You make sure we're able to beat another really good
team. We've already begun to talk about it in our week leading up to practice,
we're trying to talk about what our goals are and how to advance those goals and
how hard it's going to be. Rah-rah is great. But reality is Big East basketball
of six to eight teams in the top-25 and ranked opponents every week. Teams in
10th or 12th place that were ranked before. It takes
extreme mental toughness and fortitude to get through a Big East schedule. The
biggest thing for me is having some guys who understand it. They know how hard
it is to win in basketball. They know it's not easy. We talk about reality. (Freshman
Sean) Kilpatrick in the paper is predicting us to be in the Elite Eight. We've got
to worry about being in the Elite Eight of the Big East.
- And while I've got you here, let me tell you about my appearance Saturday at Books By the Banks. It runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Duke Energy Center, and I'll be selling and signing copies of Bearcats Rising. Come keep me company.