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ALL 'CATS ARE CREATED EQUAL

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 (Mick Cronin and Dion Dixon/life.com)


    As of this writing, Mick Cronin's 2010-11 Bearcats have four players averaging in double figures. Junior Dion Dixon leads the pack at 12.4, fellow junior Yancy Gates is at 11, redshirt freshman Sean Kilpatrick averages 10.8 off the bench and redshirt sophomore Cashmere Wright is now at 10.1.

      While balanced attacks like that don't often receive the headlines a team with a 20-30 point scorer does, they often win more games.

      UC's recent win over Utah Valley State is another example of that as ALL five starters in that one hit for double figures including two players who DO NOT currently average double digits (Rashad Bishop had 17, Ibrahima Thomas 11).

      What's it all mean?

      Well, to hear them talk it's any Bearcat at any time can make the shot or lead the team. 

      At a recent press gathering, I asked UC starters Wright and Bishop who would take the "open three" if the 'Cats came down to needing that one shot.

      "The open guy," said Bishop and Wright simultaneously.

      "SK, Rashad, Dion, me,Larry (Davis) all of us are shooting good percentage from three I think," added Wright.

      What can be noted on this team is a lack of selfishness. While no one will come out and point fingers from last year out of loyalty, the evidence shows that last year was a battle for the "alpha male" role on the team between Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn.

      Both were talented players who had their moments, but it was a chemistry issue that some of us could see happening the summer of Lance's arrival. Since their departure, a number of pundits who only study statistics have doubted UC's firepower without them.

      The current Bearcats have taken notice.

      "I think right now the whole attitude of the team is, 'We want to win,'" said Wright. "We feel like we've got a chip on our shoulder from losing last year. This year they say they're expecting us to lose because the talent level's down because we lost Lance (Stephenson) and Deonta (Vaughn). We just want to show everybody there's a team and our team is stronger than one or two people."

      The early undefeated returns show that might be the case. Naturally, the final product is judged in about three months, but there is a sense of "sharing the limelight" that wasn't always there a year ago.

      Again, no one will use the term, "addition by subtraction" out of respect for the departed, but since I'm allowed to have an opinion, I will.

      Mick Cronin would never discount the contributions of Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson to his program, but he's been telling fans and others for months that the TEAM might actually be better.

      "I've been telling people we're going to have a better team since last April and nobody's listened," said Cronin. "I told everybody when we got back from Canada. At the end of the day, we play in the Big East. It's all going to shake out in our conference."

      Naturally, the Big East will a tough test as it always is. However, Cashmere Wright is ready for the banging and bruising it brings and thinks his teammates will be too (with the emphasis on TEAM).

      "I think we're a team," said Wright. "There's not one, two or three players. You never know who may score. One day SK (Sean Kilpatrick) might be the leading scorer. One day Dion (Dixon) might do it. One day Yancy (Gates) might do it. You never know!"

      And that's the way it's gone early on.

      10 guys seeing regular minutes with no plans to change that formula once Big East play begins.

      "It will help wear their guards down when we're pressing," said Bishop. "A lot of teams don't have a lot of depth. It'll wear them down and pay off in the second half."

      Believing it is half the battle. Thus far, there's no indication of unhappiness over playing time or of guys refusing to accept roles.

      "We've got guys right now that come off the bench for us that are seniors," said Cronin. "Not many guys practice against seniors. They may not be our best players, but they play Big East basketball. They're tough, they know how to defend you, they're physical. We just to need to make sure we play in games like we do in practice because our practices are highly competitive."

      Perhaps the old coaches cliché, "You play the way you practice," is true?



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