April 20, 2017
By Bill Koch
CINCINNATI - Having to sit out a year after he transferred to the University of Cincinnati from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 2016 wasn't nearly as bad as Cane Broome thought it would be.
"I really enjoyed being around these players and coaches," Broome said. "I learned a lot from my relationship with them. Watching them play during the games, I was really cheering them on. I feel like if it was anywhere else it would have been hard, and I'm not just saying that because I'm here. It was just the people here, the city, the things to do around here. I feel like I'm at home."
Broome, from East Hartford, Connecticut, made the most of his transfer year by absorbing as much as he could during practice and pushing the other players with his intensity and energy. Soon his wait to get back into real competition will be over.
"I'm real eager," Broome said. "I kind of wish it would start tomorrow. But I have to get through the summer. I have to figure out how I'm going to get back into it, but I'll be all right."
Perhaps no transfer in recent UC basketball history has inspired as much anticipation as Broome. During the 2015-16 season, he was the Northeast Conference Player of the Year after averaging 23.1 points per game, which ranked eighth in the country. He also averaged 4.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals. His scoring average was the highest in the NEC since 1998-99.
The 6-foot, 185-pound guard, who has two years of eligibility remaining, will be counted on to add a major scoring threat to a UC team that already vastly improved on offense last year. He's also expected to add a dimension of speed that the Bearcats have lacked in their transition game as he takes over the point guard position from the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Troy Caupain, who finished his UC career tied for 22nd in scoring with 1,317 points, and as the leader in assists with 515.
"Cane Broome is a difference maker as a player because he's such an elite escape artist with the ball," said UC coach Mick Cronin. "He changes our offense, he and Justin (Jenifer). Troy was a big guard and he was set up to play, for lack of a better way of putting it, like the New York Knicks and Mark Jackson of the 80s, where Cane and Justin are more of the modern era fast players. They never get tired. They can fly up and down. Cane can break down a defense on his own. He's just very different than Troy."
During his sophomore year at Sacred Heart, Broome shot 44.4 percent from the field overall. He made 53.5 percent of his 2-point shots and 31.1 of his 3-point attempts. He shot 76.8 percent from the line while attempting 203 free throws, compared with the 99 that Caupain attempted in 2016-17. Forward Kyle Washington led UC in free throw attempts last season with 114.
In addition to his offensive skills, Cronin said Broome will make an impact defensively.
"We'll be back to a more conventional way with your smaller guys on the front of your defense," Cronin said. "I look for us to press more. Troy just wasn't a guy for pressing. As much as I loved to do it, it wasn't the right move for Troy. It just wasn't his thing with foot speed. With Justin and Cane and (freshmen) Keith Williams and Trevor Moore coming in and with Jacob (Evans) and Jarron (Cumberland), hopefully we'll be able to score even more, which will allow us to jump into the full-court press even more."
The Bearcats went 30-6 last year and played in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight year. Despite that success, there's a sense among UC fans that 2017-18 will be even better. There are plenty of reasons for that optimism starting with the return of the Bearcats' top three scorers. But Broome's potential to ignite UC offensively is what really has fans fired up.
Broome embraces the high expectations.
"Walking around everywhere everybody always says something about me playing next year," Broome said. "It feels good to inspire confidence in a school that wasn't like that. But at the end of the day it's basketball, so I've got to keep that in mind and not put a lot of pressure on myself."
The anticipation comes not just from UC fans but from the veteran players who competed against him last winter in practice.
"It's just how fast he is, how crafty he is," said senior forward Gary Clark, who rooms with Broome. "A lot of times he takes those risks with the ball, whether he's going to the basket or passing. He's just an exciting player to be on the court with. We get along really well. We think alike."
It's hard to predict how Broome's scoring prowess will translate to the American Athletic Conference, where the level of play is considered to be higher than in the Northeast Conference. But Broome says that won't be a problem. He's eager to prove himself on the biggest stage he can find.
"I know a lot of people think like that," he said, "but I don't think it is (different). I've played against good competition all my life. It doesn't really matter to me. Basketball is basketball."
Bill Koch covered UC athletics for 27 years - 15 at The Cincinnati Post and 12 at The Cincinnati Enquirer - before joining the staff of GoBearcats.com in January 2015.