Sean Kilpatrick spent his summer playing for Team USA at the World University Games, but returned with much more than just a free trip to Kazan, Russia.
CINCINNATI -- Some realities can't be taught in Cincinnati.
On campus Sean Kilpatrick stops for fans saying hello and thank you for returning for one more year. In practice, he plays the role of leader amidst a team ballooning with following underclassmen. In games this past year, he fought double and triple teams by players unfit for one-on-one.
In Kazan, Russia, however, Kilpatrick dribbled a basketball amid a sprawling landscape of great basketball players. There, at the World University Games, he was just another guy. One of hundreds, thousands.
Some realities can only be taught in Russia.
Kilpatrick may be the big man on campus but in a worldwide snapshot of basketball he desires to infiltrate, he's far from where he needs to be. Opening a senior season leading the Bearcats on Saturday, he takes the reins with a newly acquired perspective only sold overseas.
"It really humbled me a lot more," Kilpatrick said. "Due to the fact I know where my game can take me, but also I have a lot more to learn. Being here with coach knowing I'm one of the leaders now on this team, that is a huge step for me. Now I'm just really ready to take what I learned with Team USA and bring it back to the UC Bearcats."
Lessons began with poise and patience. Playing among so many talented players Kilpatrick took away recognition forcing the offensive fire in any game will only rack up missed shots and contested jumpers. Allowing the game to flow to him and involve everyone else becomes more important than how many 3-pointers he can hoist.
Kilpatrick now claims close friendships with players like Doug McDemott of Creighton, who ousted his Bearcats in last year's NCAA tournament, as well Spencer Dinwiddie, of Colorado. Those along with nine more of the country's best made the trek to Russia for the WUG. Only, the collection of Team USA players ended up finishing fifth.
Aspirations for a professional career only need one trip through all those potential competitors for jobs to know how far Kilpatrick needs to develop.
"I tell our guys all the time it's a hard sport to be a professional in because they play our game all over the world and it's competitive," Mick Cronin said. "And his team found that out finishing fifth. You got guys all over the world that aren't in the NBA, it was a bit of an eye-opener for him."
Nobody needs to tell Sean Kilpatrick to work harder. His first-team All-Conference reputation was built as an under-recruited player who outworked everyone to ascend to among the 12 best players capable of representing this country overseas.
Cronin will need to ease his star into practice, fighting his primary concern that SK would wear down having played so many extra games. There may be the occassional practice he rides the bike or substitues as an assistant coach.
Just don't expect Kilpatrick to sit quietly. He works. It's what he does.
He wasted little time putting his lessons to work and starting the journey toward the next level and what he hopes will be hearing his name called next June.
"It really taught me a lot of things that I am able to play with other great players and really stand out with my game," Kilpatrick said. "There was a couple of things in my game that I had to work on. During the summer after Team USA I came and worked on it. Everything is starting to come together."
Starting Saturday, he hopes his experience pays off in the season coming for Team UC. Anyone expecting Kilpatrick to take the floor with a big head won't find one.
"There's great players all over the world," Cronin said. "As good as he is, he's learned he's got to get better."
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