Sunday, October 24, 1999

COLLEGE BASKETBAL INSIDER


Reese can fill OSU void

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien doesn't have a lot of rebuilding to do, which is a good thing, because he doesn't have a lot of materials for the job.

        He has All-America guards Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd returning along with center Ken Johnson. No problems there. The only position that opened from last year's Final Four team is power forward, and the only man for the job is senior George Reese.

        The power forward spot was occupied by Jon Sanderson during most of last season and Jason Singleton during the NCAA Tournament, following O'Brien's shift to a three-guard lineup. Both are gone; Singleton completed his career and Sanderson transfered.

        This leaves Reese as pretty much the Buckeyes' only option, but that doesn't mean they're stuck. Reese played a lot of important minutes last season, averaging 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds and getting a career-high 15 boards in the second-round NCAA win over Detroit. And he's agile enough that he shouldn't slow down the electric attack that worked so well during the Final Four run.

        “He's gotten bigger and he's shooting the ball pretty well,” O'Brien said. “He just has a better feel for what we're doing. Last year was his first year, and he spent a lot of time learning. He's very mature, and he's played very well.”

        O'Brien said the Bucks otherwise “don't have too many options.” Sophomore Will Dudley is 6-foot-9 but played in only 15 games last season for a total of 96 minutes. Freshman Slobodan Ocokoljic will have a greater role than originally planned. “But that's all we've got up there,” O'Brien said.

        HE WANTS IN: Look for the Cincinnati Bearcats to receive a commitment soon from 6-8 forward Antwan Jones of Tallahassee Community College, UC's primary recruiting target for the fall signing period, which runs Nov.10-17.

        Jones made a campus visit earlier this month and report ed UC is his No.1 choice at this point, that he enjoyed the players who would be his future teammates and also was impressed that basketball is such an important part of the city.

        Jones visited the South Florida campus this past weekend while his coach, Mike Gillespie, was giving a lecture at UC's coaching clinic. Jones, who also is considering LSU, is scheduled to make a visit to Maryland next weekend.

        He has become a key to UC's recruiting effort because of his athleticism and scoring ability. Jones is an outstanding three-point shooter. Analyst Rick Ball ranks him third among junior-college small forward prospects.

        UC already has commitments from 6-2 shooting guard Field Williams of Houston and 6-5 wing Jerome Harper of Columbia, S.C. The Bearcats remain interested in landing another big player to bolster their inside rotation but may have to wait until spring, when 6-8 Reggie Evans of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College makes his decision.

        KENNY'S KILLING: Columbus native Kenny Gregory — who was heavily recruited in this region — has been perhaps the most impressive player in the first week of practice at Kansas.

        “He has so much ability, I don't think even he knows it,” said teammate Eric Chenowith, a 7-foot center. “He's made a drastic improvement, upped his defensive intensity. He's made a commitment to be a contributing factor on this team.”

        Gregory was a disappointment in his first two seasons at Kansas, averaging 7.1 points as a freshman and 11.3 points as a sophomore. He scored in single digits in 13 of his final 21 games last season — and that counts a 19-minute appearance against Nebraska in which he was shut out.

        A 6-5 wing, Gregory was MVP of the McDonald's All-American game in 1997 over such players as Larry Hughes, Lamar Odom, Baron Davis and Elton Brand — all of whom are in the NBA now. The question with Gregory is whether his athletic, slashing style is a good fit at Kansas, whose offense requires better shotmaking than he has been able to deliver. He has made only 31 of 99 from three-point range in his two seasons.

        GETTING UP EARLY: It apparently does Temple some good to be holding practices before dawn, but that's not why the Cincinnati Bearcats decided to hold an early-morning practice this past week.

        The NCAA mandates players get one day off per week, and UC usually takes it on Thursdays because so many players have late classes on that day. Since it's so early in the practice schedule, though, they wondered if they might be given a weekend day off instead and thus agreed to a 5 a.m. session this past Thursday.

        “It went pretty good,” senior forward Pete Mickeal said. “It went fast. I looked up at the time, and it was already 7 o'clock.”

        UK RECRUITING: The supply of elite point guards from which Kentucky hoped to find its next playmaker is running thin. New York's Taliek Brown committed to Connecticut this week. That takes him out of the picture along with New York's Andre Barrett and Chris Duhon of Slidell, La.

        Still on the shelves and on UK's list: Omar Cook of New York (North Carolina and St.John's lead); Adam Boone of Minnetonka, Minn. (Duke fading, but Minnesota charging); Imari Sawyer of Chicago (DePaul is a factor) and Luke Ridnour of Blaine, Wash. (UK's best chance, perhaps, but Utah is fighting).

       



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