Sunday, October 10, 1999
Bearcats create national buzz with new talent
Pair of magazines rank UC No. 1
BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Bob Huggins' back was killing him as he watched the Cincinnati Bearcats run through conditioning drills one recent afternoon, and still he was in a fine mood.
It never pains him to inflict a little physical punishment upon his players, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the players in question are talented enough to have inspired two preseason college basketball publications Street & Smith's and Ultimate Sports to name the Bearcats No. 1.
Senior forward Pete Mickeal and center Kenyon Martin rank among the top three players at their positions. Freshman guards Kenny Satterfield and DerMarr Johnson were McDonald's All-Americans in high school. Thus does the 1999-2000 season begin with a promise only one other Huggins team the 1996-97 group that featured Danny Fortson and Damon Flint has known.
This group, though, does not carry quite as heavy a burden. These Bearcats are not so much a trendy No.1 pick as a quirky one. Most publications are backing Michigan State and All-America guard Mateen Cleaves. UC is expected to excel, but it will not be everyone's target.
Huggins won't admit to being excited about the possibilities that exist for this team.
I have a hard time getting excited until we get recruiting done, he said. I can't do more than one thing at a time. I haven't really even thought about it.
And so he claims not to have pondered potential lineups.
I don't ever do that, really, Huggins said. I think the worst thing anybody can do is go in with preconceived ideas. Because you don't know until you get out there and see what guys actually can do and what they'll do when they're under a little bit of duress.
Huggins still has questions, then, as does most everyone who follows UC basketball. These are but a few:
Who will be the point guard? UC recruited Satterfield with the idea he would take the job, but sophomore Steve Logan has fought to keep it.
Logan was good enough to make Conference USA's all-freshman team, had an impressive summer with the U.S. junior national team and remains the Bearcats' best long-distance shooter. The UC offense often stagnated last season, though, because he declined to push the pace.
He'll have to move faster to stay ahead of Satterfield, who will get plenty of playing time.
How long will Johnson stick around? He's made no definitive proclamations other than to say he'll play in college as long as it takes to prepare him for the NBA. But UC coaches said they're recruiting as though he'll head to the NBA after one season. That will require that he play superbly as a freshman. If he helps propel the Bearcats to the Final Four, no one will gripe.
Will this team be able to score? UC did not score more than 60 points in any game it lost last season and averaged just 69 points over the final 11 games. This team should have a greater variety of options, with Johnson scoring from three-point range and in the post, Satterfield able to shoot deep and break down defenders, Logan capable of scoring 20 on any given night and Martin apparently more emphatic about shooting.
Martin was the leading scorer for the U.S. team that won the World University Games gold medal.
If Johnson, Logan and Satterfield give the Bearcats a more consistent perimeter threat, fewer teams will be able to bunch their defenses in the lane, which will allow Mickeal to use his one-on-one moves. In the 10 games he scored 18 or better, the Bearcats averaged 85 points.
Do the Bearcats have enough players for practice? With B.J. Grove achieving the necessary test score to be eligible, UC will have 10 scholarship players available during the fall semester. Forward Eugene Land, dismissed from the team for rules violations during the summer, can rejoin the Bearcats in December provided he meets requirements set by Huggins and the athletic department.
UC also has a walk-on guard, 6-4 Dave Dissinger, who played at Oak Hills High for coach Mike Price.
What will Land's role be upon his return? It's possible UC will redshirt him, given its depth at the power forward position (including Jermaine Tate and Ryan Fletcher) and the fact he'll miss the entire preseason conditioning and practice periods.
Who might be this team's biggest surprise? It could be center Donald Little, an injury redshirt last season because of a dislocated elbow. Little has grown an inch to 6-11.
He practiced sparingly late last year because of his injury, but when he did he frequently blocked Martin's shot. Little has great hands and a nice shooting touch around the basket and could push Tate and Fletcher.
For three years running, UC has entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the highest seeds and failed to advance past the opening weekend. Shedding that reputation for March mildness will be this team's greatest challenge.
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