Welcome to the end of the year Cincinnati Bearcats basketball roundtable. This is a collaboration with Chris Bains from Cincy on the Prowl and Matt Opper from Down the Drive. The three of us cover a myriad of topics surrounding the basketball program, from things this season, to things in the future, from how UC can boost attendance to where UC should play basketball in the future.
Yesterday we focused on a macro look at the 2013-14 basketball season.
Today we focus on the individual players.
Who was the most frustrating player on this team to you?
Matt: Shaquille Thomas: The cause of frustration is different than it has been with other past frustrating players. For the most part the people who usually get brought up with the word frustrating next to their name have been guys who have tried to do to much. Guys who thought they were something they were not. For instance Dion Dixon was convinced he was a three point shooter, and nothing could convince him otherwise, not even his career 29 percent shooting from there could stop him from hoisting those shots.
With Shaq its different, there is almost nothing that he isn’t capable of doing on the basketball floor. But he is just as likely to exploit his gifts as he is to drift on the periphery of a game for 25 minutes without making an impact. There are few things that are as annoying as drifting done by people who have every ability the game requires. Shaq was a much better player this year than he was a year ago in almost every respect. But he can dominate at this level, but he didn’t this year.
Scott: Jermaine Lawrence easily. Lawrence had a worse year offensively than junior year Titus Rubles. Let that sink in for a minute. It was the worst offensive season anyone has probably ever had in a Bearcats uniform. He shot 33% and 47% at the line. He got the line at a pretty good rate for his minutes, 40.7 FT attempts per 100 FGAs, which means that he left a lot of points on the floor. The main culprit was his horrific jump shooting. Lawrence only made 22% of his 2 point jumpers. Those just happened to be nearly 70% of his shots.
Lawrence was expected to be a key rotation piece. Instead, he was ineffective all season, got injured and didn’t get off the bench late in the season. His fouls were an issue as well.
Chris: Unfortunately there are so many answers to this question; Titus Rubles for his all too frequent boneheaded decisions, Ge’Lawn Guyn for disappearing offensively for games at a time, or Shaq Thomas for in general underperforming. The difficult part is that all three of those guys have redeeming qualities; Rubles is an exceptional rebounder, Guyn is a shutdown defensive point guard, and Thomas saw all of his stats balloon in his sophomore year. But the one player that consistently drew most of my anger had to be Guyn this season. His defense is simply amazing. The guy essentially negated the AAC’s most dangerous point guards Russ Smith and Shabazz Napier when UC played Louisville and UConn this season. But for everything he gives Cincinnati on defense, Guyn takes away on offense. A point guard first and foremost needs to know how to run the offense. Even more so he needs to know how to create offense on his own and that’s lost on Guyn. A point guard can’t average 4.5 points and 1 assist per outing and have six games in which he doesn’t score a single point. Guyn simply isn’t a proficient offensive player and it hurt UC’s ability to score many times this year.
Jermaine Lawrence had a freshman season that is eerily similar to Justin Jackson’s freshman year. Will it also take Lawrence two more years before the light goes off?
Matt: I hope not. Jermaine has a ton of talent, but like all big guys with a little bit of skill these days he plays like he is the second coming of Kevin Durant. Any illusions that he might have about that should be out the window now. 22 percent is ghastly for anyone. That 15 footer will be, over time, an asset to his game, but its not the building block. He needs to work on his post up game where he can bring his quickness and athleticism to bear far more easily. That Mick was finally able to get Justin Jackson to accept his limitations and go to the block after three years where JJ seemed to resist all forms of coaching gives me hope that J-Law will get it sooner.
Scott: If UC is going to contend for a conference title again next year, they should hope not. Lawrence attempted jumpers nearly 70% of the time. He was 22.4% on them. His percentage near the basket was 57%. Both of those need to be picked up. Especially the jumpers. Lawrence definitely needs to put on some muscle and get shots closer to the basket. I think he lost some confidence in his offensive game last year. He’s a bump in percentages of being the highly regarded player he was coming out of high school.
And stop fouling.
Chris: I think it could happen as early as next season as long as a) Lawrence stays healthy and b) he moves to the 4 to take over Titus Rubles’ old position. Hopefully Jamaree Strickland, Quadri Moore, or Coreontae DeBerry play so well in the low post that Lawrence can slide just a bit outside and not be a back-to-the-basket forward. That’s where I think he’ll really have a chance to shine.
What is the ultimate legacy of Sean Kilpatrick?
Matt: SK will be remembered as an epochal character in the history of UC basketball. When he committed to the Bearcats the rebuild was still occurring, but once he sat out his red shirt season he had a massive role in carrying the program over that final hill back into national prominence. He alone did not get UC to this point, but he and Mick will get all the credit if the foundation he helped set leads to bigger and better things from the generation coming behind him.
Scott: The ultimate legacy of Sean Kilpatrick is that he was the most important player in the ultimate turnaround of UC basketball. This doesn’t mean he was the best, but I think it’s safe to say that he was the face of the team for multiple years when Cincinnati improved. He went to the tournament every year. He went to the Sweet 16. He won a league title.
When you turn the page to the individual accomplishments, he shines even brighter. 2,000 points is something that might put him in the rafters. Deonta Vaughn was really good but he was on awful teams. Sean Kilpatrick was really good on some really good teams. He’s going to be remembered fondly. I don’t think it’s a stretch to put him right up there with Fortson and some of the great second tier great Bearcats under Oscar and Kenyon and Twyman.
Chris: I think we’ll remember Kilpatrick for being the player that marked the end of the rebuilding of Cincinnati basketball. Guys like Yancy Gates, Larry Davis, and JaQuon Parker I believe were all classified as players who were instrumental in continuing the process. Keeping the ship steered in the right direction, if you will. But Kilpatrick leaves Bearcats basketball in a state of perpetual success. Going forward it’s not outlandish to say that this team could win 20 games and be a double-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament in a bad year. But the ceiling for UC on an annual basis is unknown, even as high as a National Championship. That’s just kind of program Kilpatrick has left in the wake of his departure.
Is there a place in next year’s rotation for Ge`Lawn Guyn?
Matt: There is a role for him as an on ball defender and a spot up jump shooter off the bench. There is simply no way that the Bearcats can compete for the conference if Mick gives the ball to Ge for 20 or 25 minutes a game. All the good that he brings to the fore on defense is negated by his sub par (to put it mildly) offensive output. Next years team simply can’t afford for him to run the offense if the goal is to win the conference again and go dancing again.
Scott: I think so. My answer is going to be boring because I’ve said it a thousand times, but Guyn should be an off the ball guard. He’s not good enough for major minutes unless his shooting improves a ton, but he can be a guy to come off the bench and pop some 3s up and play some defense. A couple years ago when UC had their press unit, that would be something Guyn could be a part of. He’s pretty much Larry Davis and Larry Davis didn’t play a lot his last couple seasons. That should happen with Guyn.
Chris: The only things holding Ge’Lawn Guyn to the point guard role last season were his defensive abilities and simultaneously Troy Caupain’s deficiencies on that side of the ball. Given their age and experience, that’s not too surprising. But if Caupain improves his defense this offseason, Mick will have no choice but to anchor him as the point guard role next year. As a result, Guyn moves over to the 2, I think, to split minutes with Kevin Johnson. I could see Guyn being overtaken by KJ in his senior year but given his proficiency on defense and Mick’s emphasis on that side of the ball, he will likely see most of the minutes there.
Will the Bearcats get an impact performance from either Deshaun Morman or Jamarree Strickland next year as red shirt freshmen?
Matt: I think Morman is going to be a huge asset off the bench for next years team. He is a guy who can do a lot of the things that Dion Dixon did for the Bearcats during their sweet 16 run. Dion is actually a pretty good comp for Morman, with the exception that Morman actually has a good looking jumper. Dixon was polarizing in his time because he would go on these tangents where he would believe that every shot he took was a good shot. But the Bearcats have really missed the volatility and unpredictability that Dixon gave the offense.
Scott: The word impact has me wary. Morman has the best shot to be an impact player just because Strickland has not played a lot the past few years. He had a knee injury that wiped out his junior year and some of his senior year. He obviously didn’t play at all last year. Morman was probably going to redshirt before his foot injury. I see Morman in the Sean Kilpatrick role. Someone who was position blocked but comes off the bench the next season and plays well. The big men are incredibly hard to read in regards to their roles next season, which is another reason I’m going Morman.
Chris: With Kilpatrick and Jackson graduating, the possibility is certainly there for them to step in and have an impact. I’m not quite sure what that will considering Mick Cronin’s rotation is still very much up in the air but I’ve gotta believe they’ll have the opportunity.
What returning player are you most looking forward to play in the future?
Matt: I could play the contrarian and go with Kevin Johnson, but its Troy Caupain. On a per 40 minute basis he averaged 11 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds which is outstanding. There have not been a lot of natural point guards during the Mick Cronin era, Caupain is arguably the first, and he can be a great one. I would love to see what he can do if Mick gives him the ball for 30 minutes a game and lets him find offense for everyone. I think the offense will be much better next year because they will have an actual point guard running things for the first time in a long time.
Scott: My answer is also Troy Caupain, but I’m going to write about Kevin Johnson because we all know Troy could be great. Johnson microwaved off the bench to close the season. he made 6 of his 15 three pointers during the last 4 games of the season. He made 8 of his 41 field goals. He didn’t get to the line once, which is a pretty big hole in his game considering how he shot at the line this season, 26-30. He showed a tendency all season of not being afraid to put the ball up when it was passed to him. I’m interested to see how a more refined Kevin Johnson plays next season, either off the bench or as a starter. I would think he could be a great 6th man.
I’m also interested to see if Johnson can create his own shot. He, like many of the bench players, scored a higher than NCAA average of buckets off assists. That means yay passing, but it also means that if someone isn’t getting you a shot, you aren’t scoring. This team had that problem a lot.
Chris: Troy Caupain. He was only a true freshman last season but played with the confidence of a senior. I truly believe that all great point guards have the vision to see the entire court all the time and Caupain displayed that this year. He always seemed to know where every open player was on the court and got the ball to them without hesitation. Forget his 5.4 points per game, I was impressed with his 2.2 assists per game despite playing just 19.1 minutes. That projects to a great point guard for Cincinnati in the future.