What is Yancy Gates' legacy as a UC Bearcat?
I suspect that topic is going to be debated quite a bit heading into Yancy's final home game on Wednesday night against Marquette.
Here are my thoughts.
I believe that Yancy has endured more scrutiny and criticism from fans and media than any other UC player in recent memory and I don't think it is because he is from Cincinnati. It is largely because of what he is not. He is not a First-Team All-American. He is not Danny Fortson on offense, Kenyon Martin on defense, and doesn't have the relentless motor of Eric Hicks (few do). He is not the NBA lottery pick that many people thought he might become at 6'9", 260.
Additionally, he bears responsibility for suspensions in his final two seasons - for a verbal altercation with an assistant coach as a junior and for punching an opponent as a senior. Yancy did not make excuses in either case, admitted his mistakes, and publicly apologized. I believe he was sincere and has learned from his mistakes.
So instead of fixating on what Yancy is not, let's take a look at what he is.
He is about to become the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounding for four straight years.
He will finish his career as one of the top 15 scorers in Bearcat history.
With 853 rebounds, he is on the verge of passing Martin (869), Fortson (873), and Hicks (888), and depending on how many games that Cincinnati plays in the post-season, Yancy could become one of 10 players in school history to reach 900 rebounds.
As a junior, he played a major role in getting the Bearcats back to the NCAA Tournament and finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in their tourney win over Missouri. As a senior, he's nearly averaging a double/double at 12 points and 9 rebounds, and is probably one win away from securing a return trip to March Madness.
He has been accessible and honest with the media and has never publicly complained about the criticism he's received on talk shows and message boards.
Most importantly, Yancy was one of the most highly-touted recruits to come out of Cincinnati in the last 20 years and elected to play for UC even though the program was in shambles after a messy divorce with Bob Huggins. Yancy brought massive credibility to Mick Cronin's rebuilding effort and was a starter from Day 1.
Oh yeah, and he stayed for four years.
I asked Coach Cronin on Sunday to discuss Yancy's legacy. Here's his answer in its entirety.
He rebuilt the program. I think that's got to be the focus. I believe in the positive and you have to understand that he came to us when it was not in vogue to come to Cincinnati. He could have gone anywhere in America. He had offers from everybody. When I went in there to see him, I was sitting next to Billy Donovan, John Thompson, Rick Pitino, you name it. They were sitting at Withrow High School, and he committed to the Bearcats after we finished 2-14 in the Big East. He made his announcement right after that. It allowed us to go out and recruit some other guys with some confidence. The impact of him coming to our school was immense.
Secondly, he had the weight of the world on his shoulders for four years and I admire the fact that he and his family have shown an immense amount of class and character through tough times. With this age of the internet and talk radio, he's taken a lot of shots. He's a young kid - they're not professionals. You know, he's had some bad days, but his family showed immense class and character though the whole thing as well as Yancy. We wouldn't be where we are as a program if he wouldn't have been with us.
In this presidential election year, we are going to hear candidates from both sides ask the following question between now and November, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Nobody is asking that question about the UC basketball program and Yancy Gates is largely responsible.
Seems like a pretty good legacy to me.
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