Heard it From Hoard: Column 19
I admit it. I'm basically a glass half-full kind of guy.
I continue to believe that I'm eventually going to land a major league baseball broadcasting job (despite the sizable pile of rejection letters).
I look forward to the eradication of male-pattern baldness in my lifetime.
9-month-old Sam Hoard will be great at something (judging by the recent photo it could be dribbling).
Sooner or later, I'm bound to have a hole-in-one.
And the UC basketball program will be back in the NCAA tournament soon-perhaps even next year.
Feel free to question the first four items (especially if you've golfed with me), but don't scoff at my optimistic take on the Bearcats.
Call me a homer, a nincompoop, or hopelessly na´ve, but here are 10 solid reasons to believe Cincinnati's struggles will be extremely short-lived.
1. Mick Cronin. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon wasn't blowing smoke when he praised Mick by saying, "To come up with this kind of talent and competitors is amazing, because I've been recruiting in April and it's basically impossible to get players this good." Not only did Mick manage to put together a competitive team with last-minute recruits, but he resisted the temptation to sign some other good players who are bad people. Trust me; the program is in good hands.
2. Mike Williams. Not only is the 6-7, 230 lb forward a former McDonald's All-American, but he has two years of Big 12 experience under his belt at Texas and has had another year to work on his skills at UC. By the way, do you know that in the last 25 years there has only been one NCAA champion that did not have a McDonald's All-American on the roster? It was Maryland in 2002.
3. Deonta Vaughn. He's quietly putting together one of the best freshman seasons in UC history. In fact, if he maintains his scoring average (14.3) it will be the second-highest by a Bearcat freshman, topped only by Dontonio Wingfield (16.0). Unlike Wingfield, Vaughn is likely to stick around for four years and should become one of the best point guards in the Big East.
4. Cedric McGowan. Great guy, solid player, but hardly indispensable. As the only significant loss off of this year's roster, the Bearcats will return roughly 86% of their scoring and 82% of their rebounding. That should compare favorably with just about any school in the country.
5. Adam Hrycaniuk. At 6-10, he'll finally give the 'Cats a legitimate center. And he's not the stereotypical European big guy who would rather shoot from the outside than mix it up in the paint. Additionally, he's a great athlete who ran a 5:17 mile before the season. Not exactly Rip Hamilton (who's been timed at 4:27!) but extremely impressive.
6. Dave Andrews. The latest in a long line of great strength and conditioning coaches at UC. Under his direction, Marcus Sikes reduced his body fat by 7%, John Williamson improved his bench press by 75 pounds, and Deonta Vaughn improved his leg press by 190 pounds. He'll work wonders with players he has the opportunity to coach for four years.
7. Kenny Belton. Admittedly, I've only seen him in street clothes and have never watched him shoot, pass, or dribble. But strictly from a physical standpoint he looks like Danny Fortson-a legit 6-8, 240 who, unlike some previous recruits, isn't going to mysteriously shrink when he gets to campus.
8. Verbal commitments. Since I write this column for gobearcats.com, I have to follow official NCAA rules and can only mention recruits who have signed their letters of intent. Still, I think it's safe to say that in addition to the three high school players who have signed for next year (Belton, Rashad Bishop and Larry Davis); there will be two more who are rated higher than the previous three.
9. Mike Thomas. One of the best ways to evaluate someone in charge is to look at the people he surrounds himself with. In his first year he's hired Mick Cronin and Brian Kelly. Not too shabby in my opinion.
10. Tom Gregory. When Bob Huggins' tenure ended, the Montgomery Inn president was one of several generous supporters of UC athletics who was upset and planned to withdraw his contribution. But because of his friendship with Mick, Tom renewed his support and can be seen behind the bench at home games. As Mick continues to repair wounds and rebuild the Bearcats to national prominence, I think disaffected fans and supporters will return.
I'd love to hear from you. If you have a question or comment, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.