Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Barker mum about reduced playing time

UC point guard loses minutes to freshman Moore

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Point guard Taron Barker declined to talk to reporters Monday, but if he's upset over being used sparingly in the second half against TCU on Saturday, he hasn't said anything to University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins.

Barker, a senior who has started all but one of UC's games, was the first Bearcats player off the court following their victory in Fort Worth, Texas, then hurried to the team bus.

Huggins said he wouldn't be surprised if Barker was upset that his playing time has been reduced almost by half since freshman Chadd Moore's emergence.

"He was playing 38, 39 minutes before the door was opened for Chadd," Huggins said. "And Chadd played pretty well, so it's going to take away some of those minutes."

Asked if he cared about Barker's state of mind, Huggins said, "No, not at all. You've got to go to work. I would be shocked if he doesn't work today the way he always does.

"I get upset sometimes and nobody cares. You don't see officials come over and console me, do you? Our guys know if they don't come to play, they're going to sit."

Huggins thought Barker played well against TCU, as his 10 assists indicate. He also rates Barker as the Bearcats' second-best defender behind Leonard Stokes.

But in this case, Barker's defensive proficiency might have worked against him. With UC settling into a zone for most of the second half, it was easier for Huggins to keep Moore in the game, although he isn't as good a defender.

Barker ranks third in Conference USA in assists (5.7), second in assists-to-turnovers ratio (3.15:1) and first in 3-point field goal percentage (.51.7). He also is the Bearcats' second-leading rebounder at 4.3 per game.

"It's not about one person," Huggins said. "It's about the whole team. Generally speaking, what's best for one person is not what's best for the whole team. We're going to do what's best for the whole group. There's going to be guys who don't like that probably. That's all right.

"It's about the whole team winning. What are we doing, are we stopping his NBA career? I don't think so."

WILLIAMS HOT: With Saint Louis up next on the schedule Wednesday night, UC guard Field Williams' emergence from a shooting slump couldn't have come at a better time.

The Billikens pack their zone defense close to the basket and force teams to beat them from long range - Williams' specialty.

Williams, who was mired in a 3-game shooting slump against LaSalle, Oregon and Clemson, scored a career-high 24 points against TCU and made 6-of-13 shots from 3-point range.

In his last three games, he's averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting 51.2 percent.

"He doesn't have the best technique in the world," Huggins said of Williams. "If you're going to do a film on shooting, you wouldn't use Field's shot. It would be tough for somebody else to master. He's mastered it, which is the most important thing.

"He's got great wrists. He gets through the ball with his wrists. LaZelle (Durden) was that way. He had bad technique, but he just shot it so much. Field is like that."

COACH GRUNKEMEYER: Former Miami University and Moeller High guard Jason Grunkemeyer is in his first year as a full-time assistant coach with Saint Louis.

Grunkemeyer, the son of former Mt.Healthy High School coach John Grunkemeyer, was a graduate assistant last year under Lorenzo Romar, who asked Grunkemeyer to accompany him when he left for Washington.

But when the school decided to promote assistant coach Brad Soderberg to head coach, Soderberg convinced Grunkemeyer to stay with the Billikens.

"My first year or two in college, I saw how much our assistants did, how they were working and all the stuff they had to go through, and I thought there was no way I wanted to be a college coach," Grunkemeyer said. "But somewhere, it was ingrained in my blood. I certainly love it now. I feel like it's what I'm supposed to be doing."

INJURY REPORT: UC guard Tony Bobbitt practiced Monday but was noticeably limping on his sprained left ankle. He's expected to be available for the Saint Louis game. Center Kareem Johnson, battling bronchitis, didn't practice.

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