Significant Gaines

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Since today is National Signing Day, I thought it would be a good time to write about a future Bearcat. 


But not a football player - it's time to tell you about basketball player Kelvin Gaines.



The 6'10", 235 lb. center is redshirting this season after separating his shoulder in October.  While Gaines is not playing in games, he is able to practice with the team and travel on road trips. 


"We're pretty deep on the front line and his shoulder injury cost him the first month of the season, so by the time he really got acclimated to what we're doing it was mid-December and he was behind the eight ball," head coach Mick Cronin told me.  "But even when we recruited him, we knew that redshirting was a possibility."


Gaines has become the pet project of UC assistant coach George Jackson.  As the head coach at Withrow High School, Jackson helped develop future NBA big men Tyrone Hill, Brandon Hunter, and Ricky Calloway.  Before or after most UC practices, Jackson can be seen working with Gaines on fundamental big man drills designed to improve his footwork and ability to score near the basket.


"Since he doesn't get to play in the games, he gets extra individual workouts," Coach Cronin said.  "He was never really in a high school program for an extended period of time, so sometimes he has two-a-days.  If you bring a guy like him in, you've got to put the work in with him.  But we'll reap the benefits with him because he has tremendous athleticism.  He's got great speed for a big guy.  We just have to work on his footwork and teach him some go-to moves." 


Gaines came to Cincinnati with the accurate reputation of being an outstanding shot-blocker who was raw offensively.  But I can report first-hand that Gaines has made significant progress in his ability to score since the start of practice.  Initially, Kelvin was reluctant to shoot, but in recent practices that I have attended, he has demonstrated a decent touch around the rim.  


"From the first day that he got here until now, Kelvin has gotten a whole lot better," said junior Yancy Gates.  "I know some people don't think he'll be ready for two or three years, but Kelvin has made a lot of improvement.  You see improvement every day at practice."


"He's my roommate and he's got a lot of upside," said senior Darnell Wilks.  "They're trying to develop him offensively right now."


The redshirt year should help.  Gaines needs only to look at teammate Sean Kilpatrick to see how a year of practicing against Big East-caliber players can help him become an immediate contributor next season.


"I tell him to just keep working and don't give up," Kilpatrick said.  "If you take a day off, you'll be falling back.  So don't get discouraged - just keep working." 


"It will depend on him," Coach Cronin said.  "How much time he puts in, how much effort he puts in, how focused he is, and what he's willing to sacrifice to get better.  I'd like to think he can help us next year.  That's always the goal."


I wouldn't expect Gaines to score a ton of points in his first season or two, but athletic big men are hard to find and even harder to sign.  So while we're all interested in a signing day list of football prospects that most of us have never seenn, I can safely say that the basketball program has a player signed, sealed, and delivered who has tremendous potential.


"He's tough and he's a super athlete so he should be a great shot-blocker," Coach Cronin told me.  "He's doesn't have Kenyon Martin's lateral movement, so you can't compare him to Kenyon - but that wouldn't be fair anyway.  Maybe Donald Little, but he's a better athlete than Donald.  He's the best athlete of all of our big guys.  He's jumps the highest, runs the fastest, and is probably the toughest.  He definitely likes contact the most."


"The way he can jump is amazing - and he doesn't even bend his knees," Yancy Gates said.  "His athleticism is crazy." 


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