Deonta Vaughn has not had a great season.
His 11.3 scoring average is the lowest of his Bearcat career. After making 40% of his 3-point shots as a sophomore when he was named 1st Team All-Big East, Vaughn is only making 33% of his treys as a senior (including 3-for-22 in nail-biting losses to Gonzaga, Xavier, St. John's, and Marquette).
So how should we react when Deonta takes the court on Senior Night against Villanova?
If you're in attendance, I hope you'll join me in giving him the longest and loudest ovation a Bearcat has received since Eric Hicks' senior year.
Vaughn is the 4th leading scorer in UC history behind Oscar Robertson, Steve Logan, and Danny Fortson. He's started more games and played more minutes than any other player in school history. And he did it - at least initially - when the program might have been at the lowest point in its history.
"What he's meant to the program is hard to describe," Coach Cronin said. "You just have to think back to how bad it was. He allowed us to have a player to try to build to a point to where you could at least have a winning team. He and I are both probably the most disappointed guys that we're not already locked in to the NCAA Tournament and that he hasn't had a better senior year. But that being said, we're both very proud of what we've been able to accomplish in getting the program back on its feet. I know we wouldn't have been able to do it without him."
Vaughn is the only player who has been with the team for all four of Cronin's seasons as head coach and both were hoping that Deonta would end his UC career in style.
"It hurts me that he hasn't had the best senior year because I feel for him," Cronin said. "You hear people take shots at him and you take it personally, because if anybody deserves the benefit of the doubt around here it's him. What people don't realize is that most guys in his situation after he had the freshman year that he had . . . and we were 2-14 in the Big East and he's facing massive rebuilding . . . and his friends Mike Conley and Greg Oden are in the National Championship game . . . he could have easily transferred to Indiana or Purdue and went home. If you don't think those things were options for him, we're all kidding ourselves."
Fortunately for Cronin and the program, Vaughn stayed and he led the team in points and assists in each of his first three seasons.
With a minimum of three games left in his college career, Deonta is 88 points behind Fortson for third on the all-time scoring list, and 13 assists behind Eddie Lee for the UC career record. At a news conference on Monday, Fox 19's Ron "Rufus" Millennor asked Coach Cronin if Vaughn should be considered one of Cincinnati's all-time greats.
"Oh absolutely," Mick said. "I'll say this. Who else on that list played in the Big East and played against the level of competition that he's played against night in and night out? And under the circumstances that he had to do it. You have to give him his due. He hasn't been Nick Van Exel who played here for two years, had great success and a wildly successful NBA career. He's done it in a different way, but he's probably meant just as much to the program as any Bearcat, because you have to factor in where the program would have been without him. If anybody ever deserved an ovation on Senior Night it's him."
I look forward to giving him one.
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