Is This Our Dream Team?

We’ve been saying it all year, “This team is special”. There is a fire burning deep inside these men on this court that we aren’t used to seeing as Bearcats. Sure we’ve had our greats in the last few years, Octavius Ellis gave everything he had to Bearcat basketball, Coreonte DeBerry was just so big he scared the poop right out of our opponent before the game even started, one look from Justin Jackson was enough to shut down an entire offense, and Sean “I’ll Make You Look Foolish” Kilpatrick did exactly what his God-given middle name suggested; If I went into the greats that helped build the Bearcats from the ground up, we’d be here all night, but this 2016-2017 team is something special. We play with grit and determination, and we have such a clean style of offense that makes it look easy. So what makes this team so gosh darn special? What makes this our dream team?  Without even touching statistics, for the most part, I will tell you.

 

Troy Caupain – Now leading the University of Cincinnati in career assists, with 512 and climbing, there is not one person I would have rather had as our point guard these last four years. Troy lays his heart out on the court EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. The kid simply wants to win, and has fun doing it. His basketball IQ is comparable to Einstein’s actual IQ, which is a hell of a thing to have in your team captain. I could write pages upon pages about what Troy Caupain has given to this team, this university, and the city of Cincinnati but I am afraid my tears would ruin my computer. He has one of the best senses of humor on the team and he is fun to watch, both in game, and in post-game interviews. Troy has been hungry all year and I really want this kid to get fed.

 

Gary Clark – All you can say about Gary is this – he is a problem. Not for us of course, but for any team we come in contact with. He is dangerous on offense, and flat out scary on the defense, but we as bearcats wouldn’t have it any other way. Gary is also one of the all-around sweetest guys on the planet, and has often been criticized for being “too nice” on the court, not this year though. He recognizes the talent and potential that this team has, and he wants nothing more than to make sure this team reaches that potential.

 

Jacob Evans – The saying last year for this kid was “buy stock in Jacob Evans” and that is just what BearcatNation has done. After pro-scouts were watching him early on, we thought, its over – there’s no way he stays with us through graduation. He has started to ease our fears a bit, by finishing this season just as strong as when he started, and making a point to prove himself in the classroom as well to work for that degree. Jacob is a monster on offense and runs routes that will make your head spin, not to mention his vertical and just overall basketball IQ.

 

Jarron Cumberland – It has been a while since we have had a freshman come in and blow our minds the way Cumberland has. When Mick was recruiting him in high school there was a lot of buzz around his name. I still can’t buy that he is actually a freshman in college because he looks and plays like he’s 35. Lonzo Ball’s dad would be ecstatic to have Jarron as a son. He is as versatile as they come, playing with intensity underneath the basket, and has one of the prettiest long-range jumpers I’ve ever seen, and I pray that we somehow keep him for all four years.

 

Kyle Washington – HE HAS A LEFT HANDED HOOK SHOT THAT WOULD KILL A MAN. When Kyle stays out of foul trouble he is absolutely deadly on offense. Earlier in the season he pissed me off because he refused to play defense, but he’s gotten that out of his system it seems and has really come into his own as a strong defensive wall as well, and did I mention his left handed hook shot?

 

Kevin Johnson – Cincinnati born and raised, and his Cincinnati grit shows every game. Known for his “in-your-face” style of defense Kevin has been a key player to a lot of our wins this season, whether people want to credit him for this or not. He is also a great three-point shooter (when he’s on) and focuses even more on his defense when he’s off. For somebody who hasn’t got a lot of respect from Bearcats fans in the past, I think most are finally coming around. His tenacity will be missed next year without a doubt.

 

Justin Jenifer – Can you say scrappy? This kid has really come into his own in the last season with the Bearcats. Playing as Caupain’s relief, his playing time has diminished slightly, but that hasn’t broken his spirit once. He has accepted his role and continues to work hard and when he does get his minutes on the court, he makes them count. Jenifer is by far one of the most determined kids we have on the court and he hustles more than anyone I’ve ever seen. He may be small but he is a defensive monster, and even though he put on a lot of muscle in the off-season, he is still quick as a whip. Don’t give Jenifer the open shot, or open lane to the hoop, or open passing route, because the kid will make you look stupid for doing so. I <3 Justin Jenifer. (I <3 all these guys to be honest)

 

Nasier Brooks and Tre Scott – These two guys, we’ll just call them the block kings for now, haven’t had their time to shine yet, with greats like Gary Clark and…..well mainly just Gary Clark eating up all the playing time, but trust me, when their time comes – get ready.   Strong in the paint and already playing with just as much intensity as our veterans on the team, these two will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming seasons.

 

Even Quadri Moore – While I have probably been Quad’s biggest critic over the last few years, I have to fully admit, there have been multiple times I have made myself look like a complete and total, know-nothing, moron when it comes to him. He was having the game of his life against St. Joe’s in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year – a performance I wholly expect him to repeat (minus the devastating rolled ankle) – and this season against Tulane, he was draining threes just like he was put on this Earth to do. Hell, Cronin called him “The star of the game.” He also has the second best individual player fan club on the team, the “Quad Squad”, which I think is pretty dope.

 

Especially Zach Tobler – What more could we ask for than our senior walk-on Zach Tobler? This is a kid who soaked in every moment of UC basketball for the last four years. While he fully accepted his role as the “crowd pleaser”, every time he stepped onto the court he meant business. Who could forget the opening shot at the last game ever playing in the old 5/3 arena? He is the only player on this team that can get everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY out of their seats and on their feet at the drop of a hat. When you hear it’s “Tobler Time” you know what’s going on. Every game Tobler has played in, we have won. Coincidence? I think not.

 

Head Coach Mick Cronin – “”Defense wins championships” – Bear Bryant” – Mick Cronin. Coach Cronin has and presumably always will be a great defensive coach and for the first time, at least recently, he has the offense to match it. He is now in his 11th season with the Bearcats and though many may say that we should jump ship and find someone ‘better’, a majority of Cincinnati faithful is on his side. Here’s why: Mick lives and breathes Cincinnati. Mick is one of the few coaches to come through here that actually gets it (and I thank God that we finally hired a football coach to match this “Kids first, Cincinnati first” mentality). He is more concerned with creating a culture in Cincinnati Basketball and he focuses more on building well-rounded players and people than he does wins and losses, yet he still manages to win almost 70 percent of the time. I understand the critique that Mick hasn’t gotten us much hardware or banners to hang here at the Shoe but what he has given us is much more valuable. He inherited a dumpster fire with a non-existent recruiting class and turned it into a winning program with outstanding recruits year after year. He busted his ass to get us a newly renovated 5/3 Arena (opening in 2018) and this season we went on to win 30 games and advance to the NCAA tournament for the 7th year in a row.

 

THIS is my dream team. No matter the outcome of the tournament. No matter what the negative Nancys on social media say. No matter how excited I am to see Cane Broome finally take the court next season and see just how much these Bearcats youngins are capable of. I do genuinely hope for an awesome run in the tournament – it is definitely possible with this group of guys – but regardless, I will always look back on this season and smile.

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