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UC-Toledo Rock 'N Roll Party

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During the offseason, Mick Cronin met with junior wing Rashad Bishop and asked him a simple question: do you think I need you?

 

Keep in mind, Bishop had played 64 games in his college career and averaged 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest - many of them Big East matchups against some of the top players in the nation. Keep in mind that Bishop is easily UC's best perimeter defender and one of the better ones in the league. Keep in mind also that hyped recruit Lance Stephenson - who, like Bishop, mainly plays the 3 position on the floor - had signed with the Bearcats.

 

So, Cronin asks Bishop again: do you really think we need you?

 

"He hit me with, 'No, we've got Lance, we've got all these guys,'" Cronin said.

 

That, in Cronin's head, was the problem. Bishop didn't realize the truth. The truth, instead, was that yes, the Bearcats need Bishop. No question.

 

Said Cronin: "I told him, 'We can't be the team we want to be without you. You've logged two years of 20-plus games in the Big East. You know what it takes to win. I don't care how talented guys are, they have no experience. You do, and you've shown you raise your game to a level out there to be able to compete in the Big East. You can't accept the fact that because we signed Lance Stephenson that you're not going to play.' I think I confused him with that. I think he thought I was going to say that, "Yeah, we don't need you.' But he's going to be a key guy for our team."

 

That was certainly the case in tonight's 92-68 victory against Toledo.

 

Bishop scored a career-high 20 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists. He was aggressive in trying to grab offensive rebounds - he had a team-high four - and he aggressively took more shots (his 13 attempts tied Stephenson for a team-high and was the most Bishop has ever taken in college).

 

"I feel like I need to help the team put up some more points," Bishop said. "I just need to be more aggressive on that end. I'm already pretty aggressive on defense. Rebounding is another big part I've been working on, trying to crash the boards more than I did last year."

 

Said Cronin: "If he scores for us, we're going to become a whole different team offensively."

 

To do that, Cronin and Bishop are undergoing an experiment. Since Stephenson will take up residence at the small forward position, Bishop will play at the No. 4 spot. It's another sacrifice for Bishop, because, as Cronin tells it, players between 6-foot-5 and 6-8 who arrive in college want to play the 3 because it's how they'll get themselves into the NBA.

 

But Cronin wants him to play the power forward position this year, because that means a bigger post player would have to guard Bishop, giving the quicker Bishop a clear advantage on the offensive end of the court.

 

"He has a bigger player guarding him. They're not used to rotating on the perimeter, they're not used to guarding a guy who can make a shot, they're not used to guarding a guy that can drive the ball by them," Cronin said. "If you can play four guards, that's an impossible matchup. It's an advantage for him offensively, because he now has a guy guarding him who's not a perimeter defender. That doesn't mean we post him up, but that makes us a four-out team and it gives him an advantage to be a better offensive player."

 

There is a tradeoff, though. Bishop has to guard the opposing power forward on defense. So, in a sense, he has to throw away his ability as a perimeter defender in order to become a better offensive threat.

 

"That's the give and take," Cronin said. "It depends who (Bishop is guarding). If it's a smaller guy, he's fine. If it's a bigger guy, he works on fronting the post. It helps you offensively, but the question is can you get away with it defensively and rebounding-wise."

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