Cronin Discusses Bahamas Trip with Media

July 31, 2014

University of Cincinnati men's basketball head coach Mick Cronin and select players met with members of the media on Thursday as the Bearcats continue practice for their trip to the Bahamas, Aug. 12-17. The Bearcats started 10 days of practice on Wednesday leading up to their departure.  

Below are a sampling of comments.

Head Coach Mick Cronin

On what can be expected from the additional post players on the team:
"We'll definitely look better in the airport this year with our size with the five new big guys. But hopefully we will be able to figure it out during this practice session. (Learn) what each of them are good at, and what they need to get better at. That's really what all this (pre-Bahamas practice time) is about. It's like our spring football practice to try to assess how our new guys have a chance to be effective - try to tailor our offense to our players every year - and also teach them how to play hard. Make sure those big guys are going to rebound because it doesn't help to be big if you don't dominate the paint. So we try to impart a little bit of our toughness level in how we try to do things - how to use their size and not just look good. You have to dominate."

On how different this team looks compared to last years' team after one practice:
"We are obviously a completely different basketball team. We built last year around our three seniors and defensively, we are going to be much different. But we have to find a way to be just as effective defensively. But because of our size we might have to play some more zone depending on the lineups we play. We're not going to be able to do some of things we were able to do (last year) with our versatility. Justin Jackson could guard your point guard and so could Titus Rubles.



"That's one thing about being big - there are disadvantages to it as well. People try to bring your big guys out on the floor so we've got to figure out how we're going to be able to play our pick and roll defense because it will be a big adjustment for us. So we need time to work on that because it makes it a different coverage for our guard and not just for the big guy but for the guard that last year he was switching now he is not in the pick and roll situation. So just a lot of different things much different team and offensively we have to figure out where we are going to get our bread buttered. It would be nice to be able to have five guys in double figures and average 80 points a game and that's our goal. I'm not sure about how we are going to get there. We are trying to figure that out right now as well and figure out who is good at what.

"Again, with seven new guys out there it's a totally different dynamic. But our leadership has been good. Shaq Thomas is being aggressive. That's something I am really happy about. He has to be aggressive for us this year."

On if he has spoken with any of the players about needing to step up because three seniors are gone from last year's team:

"Yeah I have had that conversation with all five of the returning guys that played last year. Those five guys have to make a huge difference for us this year. They've got to be aggressive at all times. They have to show leadership at every practice. Their intensity level has to step up on a regular basis. Those guys have to become Sean Kilpatrick, Justin (Jackson) and Titus (Rubles). They've got to make sure they are bringing the intensity every day. The results will follow. Those guys have enough talent. They just have to play at the level of intensity that our seniors did last year.

"It's just a process and that's what makes college coaching fun. I think a lot of college basketball fans like that because you get to see kids evolve and develop. Guys aren't the same player year to year and you have to make sure your guys continue to improve. We really have hung our hats on that. We've got to have guys improve because that's how we have been able to get the job done around here."

On what he hopes to take away from the trip to the Bahamas:
"Team bonding is just as important as the practices and the X's and O's. We already have plans to do all kinds of stuff together as a group. All that stuff is important off the floor as well as on the floor. Especially when you have all these new guys. You have to become a team that cares about each other and is willing to fight for each other to get wins when the going gets tough. So, it's a huge advantage to be able to do this. It's my third time doing it and in my other seasons we really reaped the benefits just from the time spent together maybe more so than the basketball piece."

On the Bahamas trip being the only time for some of the players to learn and see another culture:
"Yeah that is another part of it that. I'm sure they want to see the beach and we are going to spend five or six days in Atlantis hit the pools. We want to play well. I'm more concerned about the practices.

"But at the same time we want to make sure we are having some fun and we are getting ready for the season. This is all a process and team bonding and having fun getting a chance to go to the Bahamas as a group together. Being able to provide that experience for the guys is a great thing. The kids worked really hard and they deserve it they earned it. I know Sean (Kilpatrick) and Justin (Jackson) are a little upset they didn't get to go to the Bahamas. We went to Ottawa, Canada."

On how hard it is to implement the new stuff to the young guys as well as letting the returning players get their share in the short time he has had:

"What I have done the last two times I did this was pick a few things we want to work on and whatever those few things are let's work on that. So if you have a returning team it's different. You have everybody back you can fine tune your offense.

"With this group, we've got to learn how to play defense. We have seven guys that have no idea on how to play defense. When you're playing high school and junior college you just stand behind people and don't foul. For us, we have to learn how to defend. We have to learn how to compete at the level that Cincinnati is used to competing at. You got to compete at a certain level to win a championship. That's a big process that is part of it for us.

"So defense and competiveness and the third part is work on the individual offense with one on one skills - our shooting - and really try to put a lot of individual development time in. When I watch the guys play one on one, the more I can see who is good at what. It allows me to assess what we need to do when get back and get ready in the fall."

On how much Octavius (Ellis) has changed as a player and a person since transferring back:

"Well, he is much older. When I recruited Octavius I thought to redshirt him. He'll be a backup for two years and for two years he would be a really good player when he got to 220 pounds. Now he is 6-foot-10, 225 pounds. He came in at 6-foot-9, 185 pounds. So he is a different guy, physically. But he has matured a lot.

"I think the biggest thing the junior college players come in with is that they have no sense of entitlement. They have been riding on buses and eating McDonald's for pregame. So there is a reason why he is so happy to be here. It's good to have him back. I love him. But a lot of it is the way we do things here. He is happy to be back and living in University Park Apartments. The meal plan is a little bit different at this level than it is at junior college. But that's all good. Guys need to see that. He can tell some of the young guys, `trust you don't want t to mess this up. This is as good as it gets.' He had to fight hard to get back here. So I'm proud of him. He did a great job in junior college. Led his team to the national tournament and was a first team All American. He earned his way back."

On if thinks Sean Kilpatrick still deserves a shot to play in the NBA:
"I would be shocked if he didn't play in the NBA. In fact, what I try to tell him is you're better off not getting drafted late in the second round by a team that's just going to tell you to go to Europe. A team with 17 guys with guaranteed contracts and no place to put you. They can own your rights for a year and just tell you to play in the D-League or play Europe. As a free agent, you kind of pick the best option out there for you. I think it's imperative that his agent does a good job and makes sure they survey the landscape and find the right spot for him because he is a NBA player. So I'd be shocked if he didn't make it."

On what the biggest challenge is replacing a guy like Sean Kilpatrick:
"It's just a different season so I don't think about replacing Sean or Justin. It would be different if they got hurt in the middle of last year and you have to figure out how to replace them. In college basketball, we are used to guys graduating and guys moving on. So it's just a part of what we do. You plan ahead for it.

"It's just a whole different team. So I'm not looking for anybody to go out an average 22 points a game. I'm all for someone doing that, but I'm not putting that on one guy and say hey you got to replace Sean. Whoever starts early in the season at two-guard I'm not looking for them to do what Sean did. It's unrealistic. We have to find our identity as a team this year. That's what this is about. Last year doesn't matter. You don't get to carry those wins over."

On if there is anyone that is coming back he sees will take more of the leadership role:
"I'll be honest with you. I think all five of them are capable of it. I want all five of them to do it. I don't want to leave anybody out. Jermaine (Sanders) has been more vocal and so has Ge'Lawn (Guyn). Shaq (Thomas) has really stepped up to the plate. He is a guy we think has great potential and needs to be more consistent with his effort and aggressiveness at all times. But I want Kevin (Johnson) and Troy (Caupain) to feel a part of that too because they are returning and they played a lot. We need them to play well this year. I just try to tell all five of those guys you're going to determine our success this year. Not just by how hard you play but you have to pull these other guys up to our level. That's what we're about. You've got to get these other guys up to playing at Cincinnati basketball (level) with the same intensity. So they've all done a good job and, as coaches, we try to empower guys. I didn't want to eliminate any of those five guys from that and just put it on one or two guys. But Jermaine has talked more in the last four months then he has in the last three years."

No. 3, Shaquille Thomas, F

On how excited he is to go to the Bahamas with his teammates:
"It's very exciting. We've got a young team, a new team. It's a great trip because I never been. So I'm looking to enjoy the trip. I think we are going to have a lot of fun and it should be a good experience."

On if the trip does a lot for the comradery of the team:

"I think it will do a lot because we have seven new guys and there aren't a lot of returning guys as usual. So I think it's a good team bonding trip - getting to know everybody and their personality on and off the court."

On if he feels an urgency to step up since the departure of Sean, Justin, and Titus:
"There is definitely a sense of urgency around here. Sean, Justin, and Titus did a good job around here. I definitely learned a lot from them on and off the court. There is definitely a sense of urgency from me and Ge'Lawn (Guyn), because we have been here and have been through the fire a lot. There is a sense of urgency because we want to go back to the tournament and prove people wrong."

On if he is prepared to take on that leadership rule:
"I have been working on it. I learned a lot from Sean last season and Justin. I have learned a lot from those guys. I'm just doing it every day at practice and coach is helping me with the little things. How to talk to the guys and things like that."

On how Octavius has changed from his first stint:
"He has done a whole 180. He is new person, a new man. He came in working hard and I think he is going to do real well."

On what he and his teammates look to take from the trip to the Bahamas:
"Team bonding and just having fun. A lot of us have never been outside the country, so we will look to play basketball and have fun."

On if he worked on any new dunks for the year:
"No I just been try to work on my game my overall game, getting stronger and developing my jump shot to go with my game."