Hawaii Here We Come

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Aloha . . . and greetings from somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  I'm about three hours into a 6 hour and 23 minute flight between Salt Lake City and Honolulu where I will eventually catch a quick flight to Maui for the upcoming Maui Invitational.


It certainly beats working for a living.


This event brings back great memories for me.  In 1990, I did the play-by-play of the Maui Invitational on the Syracuse University radio network even though my job as the time was to host the pre and post-game shows.  Fortunately for me, there was also a Syracuse football game that weekend and the school elected to have play-by-play man Doug Logan stay home to do football while sending me to Hawaii to do basketball.


I don't think Doug was too pleased.


Syracuse won the Maui Invitational that year by beating Indiana (featuring highly-touted freshman Damon Bailey) in a great championship game.  It was only 3 ½ years after the Hoosiers defeated the Orange for the 1987 National Championship on Keith Smart's last second jumper, so it was sweet revenge for this 'Cuse grad.


The tournament has come a long way since 1990.  Back then, the games were not even televised.  Now it's probably the premier early-season event in college hoops with a Who's Who field that includes Cincinnati, Vanderbilt, Maryland, Gonzaga, Arizona, and Wisconsin.  It's going to be a tremendous test for the Bearcats.


Conferences are not permitted to send more than one team to the Maui Invitational, so with 16 teams in the Big East, it's meaningful that UC was selected to represent the conference.  It's a sure sign that league officials expect Cincinnati to be good this year.


The 'Cats can begin proving them right on Monday against Vandy.


* * * * *


By now you've probably heard or read that freshman Sean Kilpatrick is a candidate to redshirt this season (that's why he did not play in the first two games of the season).  


I asked Mick Cronin if he had to twist Sean's arm to get him to agree to sit out the season.


"I told him to think about it and it's something he goes back-and-forth on in his head every day," Mick told me.  "He loves it here and the best thing for his career is to redshirt.  When you think about guys like Melvin Levett, Bobby Brannen, and Ryan Fletcher who didn't play much as freshman and were good as seniors - if they just would have had that extra year they could have definitely played their way into better pro contracts and they definitely would have helped the Bearcats.  Hopefully Sean will elect to do it.  I don't believe in telling guys that they have to do that.  He's going to be a great player for us someday, but it's a numbers game for us right now.  We're pretty deep on the perimeter and it's hard to get all of those guys' minutes."


* * * * *


Cincinnati inked a pair of big guys in the early signing period:  6'10" Kelvin Gaines and 6'8" Justin Jackson.  Here's Mick's scouting report on each player.


"Kelvin Gaines is a great shot-blocker and it's hard to find 6'10" high school guys that can run and jump and have a skill that can impact the game.  His mobility as a big man is something that's hard to find.  He's quick off his feet and has a natural gift for blocking shots.  He can change the game that way.  He's also a very intelligent guy.  He's got a nice jump-hook but he understands that he has to improve offensively." 


"Justin Jackson is a relentless competitor much like Eric Hicks.  Just a relentless, fearless warrior.  He's got a nice 15-foot jumper and will even shoot some threes, but his calling card is rebounding.  He loves to mix it up.  He's a gregarious guy with an engaging personality.  He calls guys on this year's team to make sure they're working hard.  He's a happy person and a guy who wakes everybody up."   


"Whenever you can get quality young big guys it's exciting because trust me - there aren't a lot of them out there.  There's a premium on mobile, athletic big guys that can impact your program so it was a great early signing period for us.  Both of those guys are more mobile than any of the big guys that we have right now."


* * * * *


What did Cashmere Wright learn from the too-close-for-comfort season-opening win over Prairie View A & M?  To turn off his iPod before tipoff.


"In the locker room, nobody is going to listen to music anymore before the game - we're just going to focus," Cashmere said.  "If you focus on the small things, they become big things.  Lack of focus becomes a loss, and if you lose enough you won't get to the NCAA Tournament."


"Whatever a guy has to do to get ready to play I'm all for," Coach Cronin said.  "Whether you listen to music or brush your teeth seven times before tipoff.  Guys have a lot of weird idiosyncrasies and I don't care what you do to get ready to play, but you've got to respect your opponent." 


I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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