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Basketball look-ahead, part II

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With the season complete and with some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason, I've put together a two-part list of who will return to UC next season and what needs to happen in order for the Bearcats to complete their comeback by earning a berth to the NCAA tournament. I'll break it down player by player and I'll look into the future to see where this team will stand next year. Here was part I; here is part II.

 

Here we go:

 

Juniors

 

Yancy Gates: He's one of the more maddening players on the team, isn't he? Sometimes, he looks absolutely unstoppable, grabbing rebounds and scoring points at will. At times, he looks like a 6-foot-9, 240-pound monster who can become one of the most-dominant players in the Big East. And then there are the times where he disappears. You saw Steve Toyloy on the court, and you thought to yourself, "Man, Gates has been out of the game for a while, huh?"

 

It's like Mick Cronin said a few weeks ago. Gates, even after two years of college basketball, is still a project. He still struggles with his work ethic in practice, and you have to admit that it's strange that Gates doesn't seem to take umbrage when he's benched during games. He's a happy-go-lucky guy, and that comes through when he plays basketball. Which is partially why he's maddening. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, which is fine. But probably not what people expect out of him.

 

Dion Dixon: Last year, I was really impressed with Dixon. He was UC's top player off the bench, scoring 7.3 points per game, and he worked harder than anybody else on the court. He hit some big shots, and he looked like he could be a real contributor. This year, though, was a disaster for him. He couldn't shoot (he was 21.5 percent from the 3-point line), and he simply looked like he had regressed - which is probably why he didn't play as much. I'll be interested to see how he bounces back next season. I still think he could be a regular starter at some point. But I'm less sure of that now.

 

Sophomores

 

Lance Stephenson: Although he didn't live up to his enormous hype - and really, there was a very small chance he was going to do so - he had a solid freshman season. He led the team with 12.3 points per game, and in the last few games of the year, he showed the ability to take over long stretches of the game. It took him most of the year to figure out how to balance his ability to pass the ball and make his teammates better with scoring and leading his team to victory. As Deonta Vaughn's career wound down, Stephenson began to make strides there. If he forgoes the NBA draft and returns to the team, like he says he will, he'll be perhaps the best player in the conference.

 

Cashmere Wright: After tearing his ACL before last season, he waited a long time to see the court, and Bearcats fans were equally as excited to see him in action. The results were mixed. He was still, after all, a freshman, and he made plenty of freshman mistakes. Plus, I'm not sure I've seen another player with the ability to get to the rim so often and then miss so many layups. But he got better as the year went on, and it'll be interesting to see how much he improves in the offseason. Still, he wasn't the most impressive rookie point guard we saw this year. That goes to ...

 

Jaquon Parker: That would be Parker, who wasn't nearly as highly-touted as Wright. And yeah, he went through stretches where he didn't play at all, but toward the end of the year, Parker's toughness, his know-how, and his shooting ability were very impressive. Based on preseason expectations and how he performed during the season, Parker was more exciting than any other freshmen on the roster. I think he could be really good for the Bearcats.

 

Freshmen

 

Word leaking from practices this season was that Sean Kilpatrick - who redshirted - was a beast and, at times, would dominate the proceedings. So, the expectations for him next year will be high. The incoming freshmen recruits are highly-regarded as well. Kelvin Gaines, a 6-foot-10 center, should help in the paint with his shot-blocking ability, and Justin Jackson, a 6-8 forward, will help with defense and rebounding. Also, Anthony McBride, a 6-2 guard who's Gates' brother, will try to find playing time.

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