Within days after taking his recruiting visit to Cincinnati in early January, junior college standout Titus Rubles changed his Twitter handle to @BearcatBound even though signing day was more than three months away.
"I think I gave away my plans when I did that, but
Cincinnati fans loved it," Rubles told me with a laugh. "After I took my visit, I knew where I was
going but I had to work out a few things with my family and look into a couple
of other schools as well. But in my
head, I knew where I was going. Once I
visited, I was in love with Cincinnati."
The Cincinnati coaching staff was understandably fond of him too. The 6'7", 220 pound forward averaged 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds at Blinn College in Brenham, TX last year and was ranked as the #2 junior college prospect in the country by JUCO Junction.
"I give Coach Savino the credit," said UC head coach Mick Cronin. "We try to really find guys that fit our style and system and have a certain attitude and we felt he was the best junior college player in the country by far. Darren did a great job of identifying him early before other people figured it out. That was the key, because late in the year he was dominating junior college basketball but by then, we were way ahead of the game."
Titus is the only recruit that Cincinnati signed this year and will be counted on to contribute right away. Following the departure of senior Yancy Gates, Rubles figures to join 6'8" Justin Jackson and 6'10" Cheikh Mbodj as the Bearcat big men who see the most playing time.
"I'm looking to contribute in any way possible," said Rubles. "Whatever I have to do to get on the court, that's what I'll do. I'm here to rebound, block shots...anything that I can do."
"When you have a new guy, all you're hoping for is that he helps your team win," said Coach Cronin. "Titus has great talent and great athleticism - he has a lot to learn on the defensive end, but he's a veteran guy coming out of junior college. He was on a winning team and had a really good coach in Tra Arnold, so I think he has some advantages because he does have some basketball acumen.
"The key is going to be to get him in shape so that he can play at the speed that games are played at in the Big East. And then make sure that he's letting the game come to him and get him sound on the defensive end."
Rubles, who goes by the nickname T-Rub, is the youngest of five children and was born and raised in Dallas, TX where he idolized one of Cincinnati's all-time best players.
"I'm a big Kenyon Martin fan," said Rubles. "He used to be my favorite player and still
is one of my favorites, but LeBron James is on top. I've been #4 since I was a little kid, but
(Kenyon's) number is retired here and you've got to respect that. I'm going to be #2 instead. That's a family number - one of my older brothers
wore that and he really liked it."
But seeing Kenyon's retired jersey on the wall of Fifth Third Arena was not what impressed Rubles on his recruiting visit. It was the atmosphere in the building as he watched the Bearcats beat Notre Dame 71-55.
"What stood out was the crowd," said Rubles. "When I saw how into the game they were and how many people were there, it was really like a done deal."
"I tell people all the time, when recruits come to a home game and it's a packed house and the crowd is a factor in the game, that's impressive to kids," said Coach Cronin. "People say, 'Coach we need to recruit this guy or that guy.' Well, if we sellout Fifth Third Arena every game, recruiting becomes a lot easier."
Titus Rubles - and his Twitter handle - are proof of that.
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