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A Panther prowling the Bearcat sidelines

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Sorry for the delay on this, but this is a video I did with former UC defensive back Haruki Nakamura at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
It was between the third and fourth quarters as Nakamura was returning to the safety of his enclosed booth after braving the chilly temperatures in the 30s on the field (such a warrior).

Nakamura lives just north of Charlotte in Mooresville and moved there prior to signing with the Carolina Panthers. He came on the field with some Panther personnel and signed a few autographs for some Bearcat fans that spotted him.

I did a "Where Are They Now" story on Bearcat Lair.  In the meantime, the video covers a lot of the material.  The funniest part is when he mentions meeting UC AD "Babb Whitcock".  Easy slip, but funny nonetheless.  Be it "Babb" or Whit, the guy does a pretty good job as Nakamura confirms.

Dribbling with David

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If you watched the telecast of UC's game at Pitt Dec. 31, you know that "The General" Bob Knight was highly complimentary of 7-foot-1 David Nyarsuk's second-half play off the bench.

Nyarsuk had several key rebounds to help the Bearcats chew the clock down along with some key bank shots and a dunk.  In the box score, it might not have looked like much. 

In terms of timing, it was clutch.

For that and some information on the first sport Nyarsuk ever played, I stopped by Mick Cronin's laboratory Thursday afternoon to speak with the tallest Bearcat ever.  (Nyarsuk trivia: Believe it or not, David was the second-biggest player on Mountain State's roster last year.  Teammate Paul Sturgess came off the bench at 7-foot-8.)

Postgame celebration at Belk Bowl

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This was the scene at the end of the Belk Bowl won by UC 48-34 over Duke.

Brendon Kay was the MVP going 17-25 passing for 332 yards and four touchdowns.  Five of those passes went to Travis Kelce for 123 yards, including the go-ahead score for 83 yards. 

George Winn ran for 130 yards and Kay added 76 yards rushing.  Here was the scene from the field:

Kelce and Kay go out with a bang at the Belk

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In one of the more unpredictable bowls that I can recall (and I've seen them all since 1997) UC beat Duke 48-34 at the Belk Bowl in a game where everyone was pulling for Duke outside of those that made the trip down in red and black. 

That includes locals that were sponsors and freelance workers.  Nothing wrong with that, most of the folks are from North Carolina so they understandably would pull for their neighbors from Durham.

I'm not going to rehash the game, as I assume most of you watched it.  I think we're all in agreement that after a 16-3 deficit in the first quarter, things were looking bleak at the Belk.

However, the mark of a champion is to pull together, band together, work together and unite to prevail.  Understaffed and with some odds against them, Team 125 gave their fans one of the more memorable games in Bearcat football history. 

They may have saved the best for last. 

John Williams recovers a fumble when it appears Duke will score to take the lead.

Brendon Kay then hits Travis Kelce for a long touchdown that brings the house down.

If that wasn't enough, Maalik Bomar racks up Duke quarterback Sean Renfree to jar the ball loose for Nick Temple to pick up a score the knockout blow.

I could go on, but perhaps Mr. Kelce could say it best:

(Addendum: clearly my video ran out. I will post a celebration video shortly that's more comprehensive.)

Greg Blair on extra year and this year's extra game

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Before today's big announcement on athletic renovations, I stepped into the Sheakley Athletics Center to catch the end of today's practice.

Yesterday, I was able to witness quarterback Brendon Kay listening to a phone call granting him an extra year of eligibility. Now the Bearcats will return a starting quarterback and a key starting linebacker.

Recently, Greg Blair got the same news.  Originally thought of as a "one and done" player, his appeal from Compliance was also successful, giving the Bearcats a pretty good one-two punch for next season. 

In the meantime, Belk Bowl preparation continues and Blair fills us in on the latest from "The Bubble":


A big month for Cheatham

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UC defensive back Camerron Cheatham out of Kalamazoo, Michigan is having a memorable December.

He was among the Bearcats that graduated this past weekend, he was part of another Big East championship and he'll finish his college career in the upcoming Belk Bowl on Dec. 27.

At Monday's bowl practice inside the Sheakley Athletics Center, Cheatham spoke about his busy month and his time at the University of Cincinnati.

Wilks still leaping for the 'Trotters

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Over the years, the UC Bearcats have had a number of vertically talented players.  There was James White who could fly from the foul line and actually participated as a high jumper on the UC track team.

 

Before that, there was Melvin Levett.  Levett once jumped over a golf cart at a Midnight Madness function and dunked.  His ability to soar gained him such nicknames as "The Helicopter" and "The Grim Leaper".

 

Another former Bearcat that shares something with Levett is 6-foot-7 forward Darnell Wilks.  Wilks didn't have the collegiate numbers that White or Levett had, but he's had a pretty good run as a Harlem Globetrotter.

Spider Wilks.jpg

 

Wilks joins Levett, Biggie McClain, Jermaine Tate, Jesse Jemison and John Howard as Bearcats that have become Globetrotters. Of that group, he's the only one still lining up to "Sweet Georgia Brown".

 

The former Bearcat forward now resides in Tennessee when he's not "trotting the globe" which he is currently doing.  He left for China last month. 

 

The Globetrotters' US tour begins on Christmas Day and they're scheduled to be at US Bank Arena on Dec. 29.  Two games are on tap that day at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

 

Before leaving for China, Wilks wasn't sure if he would be on the crew of Globetrotters coming to Cincinnati.  Last year, as "Spider", he returned to his collegiate stomping grounds in the Queen City.

 

Now, unlike the "Meadowlark" Lemon days, Globetrotters are known by one nickname alone.  While Bearcat fans know that he's Darnell Wilks, to the rest of the country, he's "Spider".

 

"They gave that to me because of my ability to climb to the basket," Wilks said.

 

Wilks used that ability to sky for the Bearcats and was actually named co-MVP of the 2010-11 Mick Cronin team that went 26-9.

 

After losing their second game in the NCAA tournament to Connecticut that March, Wilks went on to be a semifinalist in the Denny's Slam Dunk Championship in 2011.

 

His performance started the ball rolling toward wearing the red, white and blue uniform.

 

"I think it was after the dunk contest," Wilks said. "Then it was me using my connections to get a tryout for the team."

 

Coming from a military family, Wilks was accustomed to traveling the US, so the job was a perfect fit.  As a kid, he was able to witness the Globetrotters in person.

 

"I've been to a lot of places," Wilks said. "Three different high schools. I moved a lot."

 

Now he moves from arena to arena as part of one of the world's most famous traveling shows.

 

"I've been throughout Canada and I've been in Mexico," Wilks said. "China will be the first actual overseas tour I'll be doing."

Spider_Wilks_2012 Tour.jpg

 

While Wilks was selected for his jumping and dunking, just as he could at UC, he does have a perimeter shot.  Actually, in Globetrotter games, it extends beyond the arc.

 

For those that didn't know, the Globetrotters employ a four-point basket that is 12 feet away from the traditional NBA three-point line.

 

"I shot a couple 'fours' last year," Wilks said. "I made four in one game. I shoot some four-point baskets and some threes."

 

He also emphasizes that the Globetrotters are made up of talented players that can still "ball".  An evening on the court is not necessarily all confetti, water buckets and the "weave".

 

"We're always playing real basketball," Wilks said. "We just incorporate a little showmanship into the game."

 

Like many blessed with talent, Wilks has the uncoachable gift of good DNA.  His mother ran track and played volleyball and his father played basketball.

 

Athletics came easy to Wilks and the roundball was introduced to him almost immediately.

 

"I always get the story of my Dad bringing a basketball into the delivery room when I was born," Wilks.

 

Wilks still keeps tabs on his former teammates as he's not that far removed from the current upperclassmen. He has fond memories of playing in the NCAA tournament with the 'Cats and having a good showing against Georgetown his senior year.

 

 

"They've got depth so I think they'll be just as good as they were last year," Wilks said of Cronin's crew. "They've got Sean (Kilpatrick) and Cashmere (Wright) and JaQuon (Parker) and Justin 'Jumpin' Jack' Jackson.  That's what I call him.  He's still going to be blocking shots and playing hard."

 

His current Globetrotter tour runs between now and April. In between, he hopes to catch UC making a spring run.

 

"For the past couple of years they've been under the radar a bit," Wilks said. "That's the way we've always been.  I think they kind of like that."

Giordano laying it on the line one more time

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Out of curiosity, I stopped by UC's second Belk Bowl practice on Thursday to see who exactly is there coaching.

Interim coach Steve Stripling is firmly in charge, along with corners coach Shannon Morrison, receivers coach T.J. Weist, tight end coach Dave Johnson and running backs coach Roy Manning. The rest of the practice positions were handled by grad assistants.

New head coach Tommy Tuberville did spend some time in the Sheakley Athletics Center observing the practice.

Senior Dan Giordano has been coached by Steve Stripling all year and adds his comments about the upcoming bowl and changes in Bearcat football:

Brendon Kay on UC's new coach

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I should've had this up last night, but I had a Christmas party to get to. Needless to say, it was a festive occasion as many Bearcats celebrated AD Whit Babcock's early Christmas present of Tommy Tuberville as football coach.

As I told others and tweeted, I felt the move was one of the better counter punches I've seen, rivaling anything from any of the Ali-Frazier fights.

What a difference a day makes.

Here's UC quarterback Brendon Kay's thoughts shortly after Tommy Tuberville addressed the crowd at Fifth Third Arena.

Catching up with a catching leader

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Senior Travis Kelce is now the Bearcats all-time leader in receiving yards for tight ends.  Thanks to his output against
South Florida, Kelce surpassed Joe Koynock and now tops the list.

In addition to leading by catching, he's also led by firing up the troops with emotionally charged speeches you may have seen by video on this site. Like his brother, Jason, Kelce plays with incredible passion.

In his final year, it appears he emotionally has caught up with what God gave him physically.  Here's the interview I did with him Tuesday prior to the Connecticut regular season finale.