I attended basketball practice on Sunday and Mick Cronin didn't yell at Yancy Gates once.
That speaks loudly.
For the past two years, Coach Cronin constantly barked at his highly-touted big man, trying to prod him to give maximum effort and live up to his potential. At the practices I've attended this year, that hasn't been necessary.
"We had some meetings in the spring - not only with Yancy but with some of the other guys as well - about what it's going to take for all of us to be what we want to be," Cronin told me. "I think he did a lot of soul searching. A lot of it is maturity and the willingness to put forth the effort to be who you want to be as a player. He's still not there, but he's definitely a different athlete, a different player, and he's a much more fun guy to be around."
In the Bearcats' two exhibition games, Gates averaged 21.5 points. Say what you want about the opposition or the fact that the games didn't count, but that's more than double what Yancy averaged in his first two seasons (10.5 ppg).
"He's not where he needs to be, but he's on the right path," Cronin said. "In athletics, you have to be on the right road - working hard, having the right attitude, being coachable - that's going to get you where you're trying to go as a player. It's making him a better player because he's on the right road. I just have to keep reminding him that he's on the road, but he hasn't arrived yet."
I'm really looking forward to seeing Gates and the Bearcats as they open the season on Monday night against Mount St. Mary's. It will be the second game of the year for the Mountaineers, who opened the season with a 67-52 loss at
"I'm ready to get started," Coach Cronin said. "It's been a long, productive off-season for us . . . but long. Practice can only get you so far - you have to play somebody else that's going to be prepared and coached to try to beat you. We a little more size and athleticism that Mount St. Mary's, so we're going to have to use that to our advantage."
Our radio coverage on Monday will begin at 6:30 on 700 WLW and 700wlw.com. My man Chuck Machock will bring a streak of 228 games without being ejected into the 2010-11 season.
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Freshman big man Kelvin Gaines won't play in the season opener after suffering a separated shoulder at practice last month. The 6-foot-10 Floridian is practicing again after missing several weeks, but isn't ready for full contact.
"He may redshirt," Coach Cronin told me. "I still have to meet with Dr. Colosimo on his shoulder injury - he's out there with a harness right now. But he may have redshirted anyway because we definitely don't want to waste a year. He does need to practice - the only way we're going to get him ready to play next year is to have him out here every day practicing hard. It's good to have him back. He missed so much time that he doesn't know everything that we're doing offensively."
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I've spent a lot of time thinking about the state of the UC football team since Saturday's 37-10 loss at
After the win at
But in the three games since - losses to USF,
While UC has some obvious flaws, it appears to me that the team is struggling to deal with high expectations - its own and ours. After back-to-back BCS bowl appearances, the Bearcats are undoubtedly having a hard time fathoming their current struggles, and are playing tentatively. When things start to go wrong, it snowballs. The 'Cats need to relax, play under control, and stick together.
Forget about the last two years. Forget about bowl eligibility. Forget about Big East supremacy.
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