Heard it From Hoard: Column 42
I've been broadcasting UC basketball games on radio or TV since November of 1996. For you trivia buffs, my first broadcast was the infamous Crosstown Shootout that ended on Lenny Brown's game-winning shot for Xavier. I'm quite the good luck charm aren't I?
Over the past decade, I've had the good fortune of describing the exploits of Kenyon Martin, Steve Logan, Danny Fortson, Ruben Patterson, Jason Maxiell, Eric Hicks, and many others.
And I've never seen anyone in a Cincinnati uniform that looks quite like Yancy Gates.
I had the opportunity to watch the future Bearcat in person last Friday with Coach Cronin and Chuck Machock. Gates scored 20 points as his Withrow Tigers beat Aiken 80-62.
The first thing that comes to mind is a phrase that I used to reserve for Wily Mo Pena. Gates is a "genetic freak."
Yancy is a legit 6'9", 260 pounds without serious weight training. He's an inch taller than Fortson and far more athletic. He's two inches taller than Maxiell and nearly as explosive.
My radio partner Chuck spent 30 years in high school and college coaching and is in his 16th year as a broadcaster. The studs he's seen when they were in high school include Jerry Lucas, Magic Johnson, Adrian Dantley, LeBron James, and Clark Kellogg (who Chuck signed as an Ohio State assistant). While he's not ready to rank Gates among the best he's ever seen, he did come away impressed.
"For an entering freshman, his physical size and muscular build are outstanding," Chuck said. "But his greatest attribute isn't size and strength; it's his hands and feet. He catches everything near him and moves his feet more like a kid who's 6'4" or 6'5". If he works hard, he has the potential to be a great player."
"That's the unusual part," Coach Cronin told me. "A lot of guys have size and strength, but they don't have quick feet, agility, and great hands. Yancy's blessed to have those attributes - he could play tight end in the NFL. Put him on a scale right now and I'd say he's between 260 and 270 pounds. Weight training is going to keep him around 260 but make him much stronger, drop his body fat, change his body composition, and make him even more explosive and athletic than he already is. It's going to be very important for him to be able to commit himself right away in the off-season to make sure he's ready to roll by November."
Gates will primarily play power forward at UC, and if you've grown frustrated by the number of layups missed by the current crop of Bearcat big men, that shouldn't be a problem for Yancy.
"For the fans who wish that some of our guys would just drop-step and dunk it, Yancy is a guy that can do that," Cronin said. "He's finishing everything within shouting distance of the basket. He doesn't need to be all alone to dunk it either - he'll dunk it over everybody. Mike Williams is a finisher as well, so we'll be much more athletic on the interior. They play above the rim."
At the high school level, Yancy doesn't have to exert maximum effort to dominate. He's averaging about 11 rebounds a game, but if he made that his focus he could probably grab twice as many.
"He's never had to be the hardest-playing guy on the floor to dominate," Cronin said. "That will be a challenge for him. He'll have to step up his level of intensity. It's just like the freshman we have now. It's not of matter of if they play hard, it's playing hard all of the time. Yancy is a competitive kid, that's one thing I know about him. He's got a lot of pride in how good he is and the kind of player he's going to be. That pride will drive him and that's going to make it easy for me to push him. He wants to be a guy who fulfills his potential."
Has Cronin ever signed anybody that big and strong?
"No and it's not even close," Mick said with a laugh. "He's the most talented big guy that I've ever recruited. For a coach it's exciting because he's got everything that you can't teach. Everything that Yancy needs are things that can be taught."
I'd love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, I almost forgot this week's obligatory photo of the handsome lad, who got a kick out of climbing stadium steps at Fifth Third Arena.