(Courtesy Martinsville Bulletin--Kelvin Gaines is dead center right below rim in background)
Every year at the Deveroes League, there's a game between McCluskey Chevrolet (typically the NKU squad) and another team full of Division I players that either goes to the wire or McCluskey wins. In past years, it's been Shannon Minor or Mike Kelcey, it doesn't matter. Every year, NKU has a few guys who can put the ball in the hole.
Problem is, in the lay-up line, it looks like David vs. Goliath.
This year, it's been no different and I recently witnessed such a game when McCluskey took on the Slats team featuring UC's Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, former Bearcat Steve Toyloy, and Xavier's Terrell Holloway. The McCluskey/Norse were outsized and not as fast, but they played smart, moved the ball and buried threes---the formula for knocking off more physical opponents.
Early in the second half, McCluskey had an 11-point lead when Xavier's Holloway called a timeout and gathered Kilpatrick and the others. Previously, NKU's Dennis Gagai had been lighting up Slats from the three-point arc.
Gagai is a West Virginia transfer that's played a couple years with the Norse and looks like he could help any Division I team in the area. In the end, he finished with 26 points and at one time was matching Holloway and Kilpatrick shot for shot.
But, in the end, depth and defense gets you wins and Slats was able to pull it out 75-71 as Holloway poured in 32 and Kilpatrick finished with 24 (after just a bucket in the first half). Slats also was led underneath by Steve Toyloy and newcomer Justin Jackson contributed with five blocks and seemed to have his long arms in the right place several times.
The side story to this is it was the first Deveroe's appearance for new UC center Kelvin Gaines. Coming off a jaw injury (an inadvertent pop from Yancy Gates to the mouth) Gaines was more of a spectator in this one, but did have a basket and a couple of boards in a brief cameo.
Gaines is trying to get his legs back after missing time initially with the jaw injury, then reaggravating it once he got to Cincinnati in the open gym with Gates.
"Yeah, I had it done before I came, but he did it again," Gaines said.
Asked if he popped Yancy back, Gaines said, " No, I'm good."
On first look, Gaines looked rusty, but that's to be understood after missing time. Advertised as a shot blocker, he does have the length and leaping ability to do so, it just appears to be a matter of time before he's in to "running the floor" shape. The one thing I did notice right away is Gaines looks to be one of the few recruits that lives up to his measured billing.
Best I can tell, he's a legit 6-10 which always helps in the Big East. Now, he just needs to add about 25 pounds or so onto his 225 pound frame. Much like Justin Jackson though, Gaines knows his UC role.
"Oh yeah," said Gaines. "Defense and blocking shots."
Adding a long-armed 6-7 guy (Jackson) with another blocker in Gaines to the frontcourt of Gates, Thomas, McClain and Wilks, gives you a pretty good crew in the "hops and swats department".
Gaines has been in town about a month now and credits his parents for guiding him to UC because of their relationship with the Bearcat coaches. Needless to say, a defensive player of his stature had numerous offers.
"I had a lot," said Gaines. "UConn, Miami, Memphis, Oregon, everybody."
While on first glance, you might not be overwhelmed with Gaines, the body-type and potential are there for a quality Big East defender. Offensively, much like the particular game that Gaines watched from the bench, UC's fine with the ball in the hands of the shorter guys.
"I could've played today, but they really didn't need me," said Gaines of the guard-oriented game that transpired.
Again, similar to Jackson, if Gaines can come in and spell Gates and/or Thomas for a while, the Bearcats shouldn't lose out in terms of size and athleticism. Both young players specialize in swatting shots away--the more shots redirected toward the stands, the better UC's chances of winning become.
For more of a look at some of UC's new guys on the court this fall (Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines) "live", postseason action takes place at Woodward High School Thursday night, July 29th. Slats (their team) is scheduled on the floor at 7:30.