Mick Cronin officially introduced the newest four members of the University of Cincinnati basketball program on Thursday. He called it his best class in the early period since coming to the Bearcats.
It may be, but those labels are bets placed on teams three or four years down the road. We shall see.
But, nobody can deny the depth of talent Cronin is able to collect now has far exceeded where this program was even a few short years ago.
It was ranked 26th nationally by Scout.com.
When I talked to Mick about recruting this past summer he talked about it being like a high school cafeteria. You needed to be sitting at the right tables. If you weren't there, you had no chance at eating the best food.
The first year he was here, not only was he not at the right tables, he wasn't in the cafeteria. He coming out of detention eating the PB&J from his packed lunch as he runs down the hall trying to get to the lunch room.
Now, this class didn't have the big-name star like last year's freshmen with Lance Stephenson. Of course, Lance came during a late offseason push and the Bearcats still have two spots remaining, one of which Cronin hopes to have announcement about this weekend. (Of which I have no idea about, so when I find out, you'll find out. The rest is just speculation)
But the depth of talent with Jermaine Sanders, Octavius Ellis, Shaquille Thomas and Ge'Lawn Guyn infers the days of sitting on the outside looking in are gone.
Cronin isn't sitting with Roy Williams, John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski right now (the cool guys own their own luxury suite right next to the cookies), but he isn't far off.
Sanders and Thomas are both four-star recruits by Scout and in ESPN's top 150. Ellis and Guyn are three-star recruits by Rivals.
There are no throwaway recruits anymore. Not that there were before, but if you are only as strong as your weakest link, the Cats weakest links are much stronger than they have been in this class. And there's more to come.
The difference between this class and being a top 20 in the nation is a return to the NCAA tournament more serious clout in the Big East. Yet another reason this season is so critical to the future of the program.
Let's take a look at what Cronin and others are saying about these guys.
Jermaine Sanders, 6-foot-5, wing:
"Jermaine Sanders is the guy we had to get," Cronin said. "He can do it all as a player but most importantly he does it as a teammate. Jermaine can score in bunches, yet he is a great passer. He has a gift of feel for the game that cannot be taught, and that makes him special. 'Maine' is also a Rice Raider, home of Kenny Satterfield and many other great players that won big in high school as part of one of the great basketball programs at any level. Jermaine also led his New Heights AAU team to many championships, he is a big time get for Cincinnati basketball."
Sanders comes in as game-ready as anybody by size and style. Unfortunately, I can't say I've seen him play. But by all accounts he sure sounds like a more offensive-minded version of Rashad Bishop.
And a highlight video from the Roundball Classic. He first shows up at the 1-minute mark.
Shaquille Thomas: 6-7, 195 pounds, wing:
Thomas comes in with the most upside of any player in this class. As a pure athlete, he's among the best in the country. Cronin talked about him flying from the free throw line for dunks. (James White anybody?)
Here's his comment:
""Shaq Thomas has unbelievable upside as a basketball player. At 6-foot-8, he has the ball-handling skills of a guard as well as shooting ability from the perimeter. Shaq is one of the best athletes in the country who can jump out of the gym. He has to develop his strength and conditioning, and we have the best strength coach in the country for that in Dave Andrews. Shaq is just a tremendous talent and we are very excited he is a Bearcat."
Thomas is a nephew of NBA star Tim Thomas and attended four different high schools in four years. A curious case, but one that appears to bright.
How about a highlight video:
Octavius Ellis, 6-8, 190 pounds, forward:
The kid from Memphis has a load of athleticism. Here's what Cronin had to say about him:
""Octavius Ellis is a skilled big man. He can shoot, handle and pass and he is not done growing. He and Shaq have great upside as players with skill and athleticism. 'Te' can also rebound and block shots and is a very competitive young man with a desire to improve and be great. I love his potential as a basketball player as he has size and skill which are hard to find."
A big man who can handle the rock is a rarity and this video has some examples of that -- and remmber, this video is from 2009. He's got two years of seasoning and growing since this was made. He averaged 17 and 8 boards for his high school team as a junior.
Ge'Lawn Guyn, PG, 6-3, 175 pounds:
He's a local kid from Georgetown and will be given time to develop behind Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker.
"Gee is a competitor flat out," Cronin said. "In recruiting you find every now and then a player that you believe in as a coach that is going to personify winning and for me that is Gee. He is a tough guard with great speed with the ball, but his work ethic is his biggest asset. Gee is a true Bearcats basketball player as he just outworks his opponent each and every day. Gee can play and he is already the leader of one of the best prep teams in the country at South Kent."
He was on Team Indiana Elite and caught the eye of some scouts with his play there this past summer.
And the kid can finish at the hoop. Don't believe me? Believe this.