Two additions to the UC Bearcat basketball floor can be seen for a few more weeks at the Deveroes Summer League at Woodward High School. One actually became a Deveroes favorite last year in Sean Kilpatrick.
"Killa" as PA man (and former Xavier Musketeer) Jamal Walker calls him, was one of the main scorers last year for the Slats entry that typical showcases new Bearcat talent. The 6-4 guard from New York showed a variety of playground moves and the ability to score from all over. Then, in came Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson watched a few summer games last season, then played in the championship and was phenomenal. Thing is, the team (in my opinion) had developed a chemistry around Kilpatrick and suddenly what was usually a fairly even distribution between Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates became "The Lance Show".
Sure, it was entertaining and enlightening, but the focus was on "Born Ready" and eventually things didn't jive and it resulted in a loss.
(Read into that what you want.)
Now, "Killa" is back with a green light and is anxious to show Bearcat fans what they missed last year when he was advised to redshirt.
"I'm a lot ready for this year," said Kilpatrick after racking up 31 points unofficially in a Slats defeat against Raeshon Mansoor Law Office. "I feel like everything has basically come to me. I've been working on my game a lot more and I've been working on my perimeter shot a lot more."
Sitting does not come easy to Sean Kilpatrick. Neither does losing. Last year, he had more than his fill of both.
"Very hard," said Kilpatrick of the ordeal. "Wanting to play next to Lance (Stephenson) and seeing my team struggle like that. It hurt a lot."
The ironic thing is it was Stephenson's presence that led to Kilpatrick's redshirt, as it was deemed there were only so many minutes for a New York shooting guard. The one with the headlines won out, although you shouldn't consider Kilpatrick "back page" material for one second. It's water under the bridge, but he believes he could've assisted the Bearcats last season.
"Yes, yes I could've helped," said Kilpatrick emphatically. "I've just got to move on and worry about this year."
Moving on means moving into the weight room to take advantage of year one of his remaining four years of eligibility. He looks thicker already, as does Darnell Wilks and Biggy McClain. Yancy Gates always looks thick. Those that might not look thick, are probably deceptively strong and it's all so UC can compete in the rugged Big East.
The taskmaster for these body changes is Dave Andrews, a former Ohio State football player and the basketball strength and conditioning coach. Dave Andrews can dress an athlete down with one stern glance.
"I love Dave," said Kilpatrick in defense of his coach. "He keeps us going. If it wasn't for Dave, I don't know where this program would be. He's a big help in the weight room."
Adding strength is one thing, adding wins is another. With two top scorers gone (Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson) there's plenty of room for Sean Kilpatrick to step up and take charge (along with Dion Dixon, Larry Davis, Rashad Bishop, Jaquon Parker, Cashmere Wright, etc.).
That's a lot of perimeter talent waiting for their moment. However, Kilpatrick thinks the strength of the Bearcats might be inside.
"I think with the team this year--we work a lot more," said Kilpatrick. "Especially, Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy Gates. Our 'bigs' have progressed. I feel like they're working a lot more in the weight room. We're getting a lot of work done in the weight room. We should be OK this year."
To complement the veteran power players, Mick Cronin had added Justin Jackson, who can also be seen on the Slats team in the summer league.
Upon signing Jackson out of Jacksonville, Florida, Coach Cronin compared him to Eric Hicks, Jason Maxiell and Erik Martin. Having seen him, he's taller than Hicks and Martin and is probably closer to Maxiell's height (6-7). That's only one inch shy of his listing, which I've come to find out is pretty good in college circles. In past years, recruits seemingly "shrunk in transit".
What he lacks in stature, Jackson makes up for in wingspan as many have agreed that Jackson has the longest arms on the team. While raw, he's very active, and for a team that keeps count of "deflections" that's very good.
"I try to do all of the dirty work, really," said Jackson.
What Bearcat fans will notice is his ability to change shots, if not block them with his leaping ability and reach. He's also not afraid to dive on the court, even if it's a summer league game.
And obviously, he can sky as he ferociously attacks the rim with his great leaping ability. Even though he admittedly is a "bit behind" Darnell Wilks in that category, Jackson looks like he's flying because of what basketball coaches refer to as, "great length".
Next on the agenda for Jackson is some serious time with the aforementioned Dave Andrews who would like to pack another 15-20 pounds on Justin's 210-pound frame. Putting a little "definition" onto a vertical player, could be the key to UC's equation in 2010-11.
Or, as Jackson likes to say....
"They call me the 'X Factor'!"
Where else would an 'X Factor' be needed than at the University of Cincinnati?
When is that Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout again?