Men's Basketball |
Oct. 18, 2009
SETTING THE STAGE
The rebuilding process head coach Mick Cronin took over three years ago looks to be coming to an end as he begins his fourth season at the University of Cincinnati. In each of his first three seasons, Cronin recorded more wins than the previous season and entering 2009-10, Cronin looks to continue that trend and add another celebrated chapter to the rich tradition of Cincinnati basketball.
For the first time since Cronin has been the head coach at UC, he has a senior leader on the floor that has been through the ups and downs of rebuilding in guard Deonta Vaughn. Not only has Vaughn seen the team improve its win total in each of his three seasons, but he has helped the Bearcats play in the postseason for the first time under Cronin in 2007. His leadership coupled with seven returning letterwinners and a talented recruiting class gives Cincinnati its most experienced team since Cronin’s arrival in 2006-07.
A two-time all-BIG EAST performer, Vaughn has led the Bearcats in scoring and assists in each of his first three seasons. The Indianapolis, Ind., native is primed for his best season as a Bearcat thanks to the return of BIG EAST All-Rookie Team selection Yancy Gates in the post. Gates, who averaged 10.6 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game in 2008-09, and Vaughn gives Cincinnati one of the most dynamic inside-outside combinations in the conference. The Bearcats also welcome back a group of players who earned a great deal of experience last season in juniors Larry Davis, Rashad Bishop, Anthony McClain, and Darnell Wilks, senior Steve Toyloy, and sophomore Dion Dixon.
An exciting and talented group of newcomers brings excitement to the program, headlined by McDonald’s High School All-American Lance Stephenson. Freshmen Sean Kilpatrick and Jaquon Parker complete Cronin’s highly-touted recruiting class. Redshirt freshman Cashmere Wright, and transfer Ibrahima Thomas will don the Red and Black for the first time after missing last season due to injury and NCAA transfer rules, respectively.
Cincinnati possesses the deepest roster since Cronin’s arrival, and as the veteran leadership guides a talent-rich group of newcomers, the Bearcats look to lift their program to new heights.
For the first time under Cronin, the Bearcats backcourt is filled with depth led by senior guard Deonta Vaughn.
Vaughn, a two-time all-conference selection, has been a scorer since stepping foot on campus. The past two seasons, Vaughn has been one of UC’s primary ball handlers, resulting in more assists to compliment his scoring. While Cronin will have the option to slide Vaughn into the point guard position whenever needed, Vaughn will shift back to his more natural shooting guard position to enhance the Bearcats’ offensive attack. Redshirt freshman Cashmere Wright is the front runner to take over at the point guard position after sitting out the 2008-09 season with a knee injury. A Top-100 recruit out of high school, Wright has the reputation as a complete point guard presenting the Bearcats with an impressive backcourt duo.
Sophomore Dion Dixon came on the scene last year and was the leading scorer off the bench, averaging 7.3 ppg. Dixon’s versatility and toughness off the bench sparked the Bearcats and with a year of experience under his belt, the coaching staff expects big things from the Chicago native this season.
In two years with the program, junior Larry Davis has upped his scoring from 4.3 ppg in 2007-08, to 6.8 ppg last season and the trend should continue this year. Davis was tabbed by Cronin as one of the team’s top on-the-ball defenders last season and his development, both offensively and defensively, will give him time to shine on both ends of the floor.
Sean Kilpatrick, Jaquon Parker, and McDonald’s All-American Lance Stephenson begin their first season in UC’s backcourt, giving Cronin a versatile, dynamic group of players who can score, distribute, and attack. Walk-ons Eddie Tyree and Alex Eppensteiner look to add depth to the group.
THE FRONT COURT
Facing some of the biggest and tallest front courts in the BIG EAST and in the nation year-in and year-out, Cronin has a cast of players that are battle tested and ready to make a name for themselves in the conference.
Leading the way is the talented sophomore Yancy Gates, who emerged as one of the up and coming post presences in the league last year. Gates averaged 10.6 ppg and a team-best 6.1 rpg en route to being named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie team. Showing glimpses of his ability with double-doubles against South Dakota and West Virginia, Cronin will look for similar performances night-in and night-out from Gates as he enters his sophomore campaign.
One of the team’s best all-around players, junior Rashad Bishop will split time at the forward and guard position again in 2009-10 along with fellow junior Darnell Wilks, who at 6-7, is one of the most athletic players on the squad.
Playing in all 32 games last season, including 13 starts, senior Steve Toyloy brings experience and depth to the front line, while UC will also look to junior transfer Ibrahima Thomas to bring a different dimension to the front court. Thomas, who will be eligible following the completion of the Fall Semester after transferring mid-season last year from Oklahoma State, has the ability to extend defenses with his perimeter jump shooting.
The new chapter of Cincinnati basketball has arrived and with this mix of leadership and talent, the Bearcats appear to be on the cusp of contending for a BIG EAST Championship and returning to the NCAA Tournament.