In this town, the Cubs are tough to like. Just ask Marty Brennaman. Or sit next to their fans for a game.
They became quite a bit more likeable here today. Chicago called up former Bearcats CF Tony Campana from Triple-A.
If you don't remember Campana, he was the blur that circled the bases of Marge Schott Stadium through 2008. His senior year, he stole 44 bases in 55 attempts while hitting .319. He led the team with eight triples and was second with 60 runs scored.
He's now the second UC player in the bigs along with Kevin Youkilis.
Campana spent the last three years fast-tracking through the Cubs system and could make his MLB debut tonight at GABP. I will head down there and catch up with Campana before the game to bring you some of his reflections as he sips his first cup of coffee. I can't imagine the kind of excitement Campana must be feeling -- and of all places to come up, the kid from Springboro and UC ends up in Cincinnati. Hard not to root for him to play and get that first hit/stolen base tonight.
--- Yesterday I mentioned Brian Cleary grabbing UC record win No. 392, passing Glenn Sample for all-time victories. Tommy G caught up with Cleary yesterday to chat about the series victory against Seton Hall and the rest of the baseball season.
--- Bill Koch posted a blog about Yancy Gates being invited to tryout for men's team at the World University Games to be played in China this August. Training camp for the event will run July 30-Aug. 8. At the very least, the opportunity to practice with the best players college basketball has to offer will be great experience for Gates. It also goes a long way to building confidence rolling into next season.
If you look back at the 2009 University Games team and then to their production the following year, the jump in numbers stands out. Most of this likely comes from graduation of other players and increased reliance on their skills as they mature.
Still, the numbers of those that made team show a common thread of the experience owning some responsiblity for improvement. Much talk in the NBA recently has been about the national team experience benefitting two major players still remaining in the playoffs, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. You can say the same about the possiblities if Gates were to land on the team.
Player/Year School 08-09ppg/assists 09-10 ppg/assists
James Anderson/Jr. OK State 18.2/1.4 22.3/2.4
Talor Battle/Soph. Penn St. 16.7/5.0 18.5/4.2
Trevor Booker/Jr. Clemson 15.3/1.7 15.2/2.5
Craig Brackins/Soph. Iowa St. 20.2/1.3 16.5/2.2
Da'Sean Butler/Jr. WVU 17.1/1.7 17.2/3.1
Corey Fisher/Soph. Villanova 10.8/2.8 13.3/3.9
Lazar Hayward/Jr. Marquette 16.3/1.1 18.1/1.5
Robbie Hummel/Soph. Purdue 12.5/1.9 15.7/2.1
Quincy Pondexter/Jr. Wash. 12.1/1.6 19.3/1.8
Deon Thompson/Jr. UNC 10.6/.7 13.7/.8
Evan Turner/Soph. OSU 17.3/4.0 20.4/6.0
Jarvis Varnardo/Jr. Miss St. 12.9/.8 13.8/.9
Average 15.0/2.0 17.0/2.6
While the numbers aren't staggering in improvement, take this significant factors into consideration. Most of these players were the primary scorers for their particular teams. The ball goes inside to Trevor Booker at Clemson, it was going to the rim. Da'Sean Butler grabbed a pass on the wing, he was driving to the hole and forcing the shot.
Playing on this US team with these talented players helped enforce an attitude of unselfishness on the basketball court. It forced these players to start thinking about passing the ball instead of constantly forcing up shots in tough situations. It allowed them to see passing lanes because they were blinding themselves to them before.
Look at the assist numbers. Every single player, except for Talor Battle at Penn State (already an unselfish point guard prior, asked to score more upon his return to PSU), saw jumps in their assist numbers. Some were small, but many were significant. Anderson, Butler, Fisher, Turner, Booker and Brackins all saw their assist number rise at least .8.
This isn't to say Yancy Gates (already a decent passer) will return and distribute the ball like Bill Walton his senior year, but if he made the team, history and numbers would insist his 1.2 assists per game could easily bump up to 2 or 3 assists. That would be a major asset as teams attempt to double down on the big fella.
--- Remember the difference against UC at the Big East tourney when USF had PG Anthony Crater in the first half compared to without him in the second? Yeah, not good news for the Bulls as they dismissed him from the team.
--- West Virginia was already slim on perimeter help next season. Now G Dalton Pepper is transferring. Huggs will be sporting a toddler backcourt next season.
--- I've been calling Dana O'Neil the best pure writer/reporter in college basketball for years. Here's the latest fantastic example with her story on former Villanova star Will Sheridan, who came out publicly as homosexual. Just an incredible story and every bit what journalism is supposed to be.
--- No mo MoMo. I just wanted to write that line.
--- A man writing a blog about sandwiches he's eaten sort of makes me happier the Internet exists.
--- One of the primary reasons why CBS is America's most watched network: They don't let Colin Cowherd infultrate their airwaves.
--- Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam documentary will air on PBS' Masters on Oct. 21. My DVR is already set.
--- Do you know a Star Wars fan with a birthday coming up? Does he/she like to grill. Maybe you can convince this guy to replicate his R2D2 smoker for you.
--- Here's some video of Tony Campana from his stint in the Southern League (Double-A) where he won the 2010 Hustle Award. (H/t Lance McAlister)