Wednesday, November 14, 2001

U-Cincinnati basketball preview


ROSTER
Player Pos. Height Class Hometown/school
Taron Barker G 6-0 Jr. Racine, Wis./Case Odessa
Rodney Crawford F 6-5 Sr. Cincinnati/Withrow/Bakersfield
Jamaal Davis F 6-8 Sr. Gary, Ind./Merrillville/Barton Co.
Rod Flowers F 6-8 So. Huntsville, Ala./Butler
Derek Hollman F 6-10 Jr. Itta Bena, Miss./Laflore Panola
Jimmy Hubbard F 6-6 Jr. Belton, Mo./Belton/Johnson Co.
Donald Little C 6-11 Jr. Augusta, Ga./Winchendon
Steve Logan G 6-0 Sr. Cleveland/Lakewood St. Edward
Jamaal Lucas G 6-2 Fr. Corpus Christi, Texas/Roy Miller
Jason Maxiell F 6-7 Fr. Carrollton, Texas/Newman Smith
Immanuel McElroy G 6-4 Sr. Port Arthur, Texas/Lincoln Tyler
John Meeker G 6-1 Fr. Troy/Troy
Leonard Stokes G 6-6 Jr. Buffalo, N.Y./Turner Carroll
Field Williams G 6-3 So. Houston/Waltrip

Frontcourt

     There's Donald Little. There's Jamaal Davis. And there's Jason Maxiell.

     And there are a whole lot of question marks after that.

     Little, a 6-foot-11 junior, averaged just 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in UC's two exhibition games. A big key for Little - and the Bearcats - is that he stay out of foul trouble, which he did both games. If he plays, he has a chance to be productive. UC can't afford for him to get only 15 to 20 minutes a game because of foul trouble. Little has to be poised and play smart.

     Davis, a 6-8 senior, needs to grab rebounds to stay on the court. He has a big edge with his experience, but the coaches want more production. He will likely start at power forward, at least early in the season, because he's a veteran.

     Whether or not Maxiell moves into the starting lineup, he will probably end up playing as many or more minutes as Davis and/or Little. Though Maxiell is a raw talent who is still learning the game, he is simply the most productive of the three, especially in rebounding, which UC desperately needs. He gave a hint of what he could do against Northern Kentucky (13 points, 14 rebounds).

     Once you get past that trio, it's anybody's guess who - if anyone - will help.

     Neither sophomore Rod Flowers nor senior Rodney Crawford has performed consistently this fall.

    

     Backcourt

     This is UC's strength, without question. As good as senior Steve Logan looked last season while winning Conference USA Player of the Year honors, he has been even better this fall. He is shooting well, driving to the basket, running the offense as the point guard and passing the ball well. You name it, he's doing it. And he has an incredible will to win.

     Junior Leonard Stokes is shooting the ball better and playing more aggressively. Ditto senior Immanuel McElroy, who was especially impressive in the exhibitions (17 ppg, 84.2 FG percentage). They will play the shooting guard and small forward positions.

     Count on those three to carry the team most nights.

     Junior point guard Taron Barker, junior forward Jimmy Hubbard and sophomore shooting guard Field Williams may be able to help in spots.

    

     Bench

     Depth is coach Bob Huggins' greatest concern, with justification. His starting lineup (Logan, Stokes, McElroy, Davis, Little) includes all veterans. His best sub, Maxiell, is going to help somehow, someway, just about every night. He will rebound, block shots and score at different times.

     After that, the UC coaches aren't sure who is going to help. When they need defense, they may call upon Barker. When they need baskets, they may summon Williams or Hubbard or even Flowers. When they need some hustle and toughness, it could be Crawford's turn.

     The opportunity for playing time is there; nobody's laid claim to it yet.

    

     Intangibles

     Players and coaches have said the team chemistry is better than last season. How will that translate on the court? Who knows. Chemistry is mostly tested after losses or other adverse situations.

     Here's what you can expect: A similar season to 2000-01. There are going to be some bumps in the road and a lot of close games.

     To have a better season than last year, the Bearcats need to improve in two specific areas: Rebounding and end-of-game execution.

     You can bet that several games are going to come down to the wire again.

     This season, the ball's going to be in Logan's hands most of the time to shoot or create. He is good at drawing fouls - and making his free throws - and finding the open man.

    

     Notable numbers

     • Bob Huggins begins his 21st season as a Division I head coach as the ninth-winningest active coach in the country (469-168, .736)

     • Logan starts the season No. 21 on UC's all-time scoring list (1,215) and could move up to No.n 3 if he repeats his numbers from last season

     • Logan also begins the season as the school's all-time leader in free-throw percentage (85.2) and third in 3-point percentage (38.1)

     • Junior Donald Little is sixth on the all-time blocked shots list (93) and would move up to No. 2 - behind only Kenyon Martin - if he repeats his total from last season.

     • The Bearcats have won at least 20 games and gone to the NCAA Tournament 10 consecutive years

    

     Games to watch

     • Nov. 16 at At No. 18 Oklahoma State: UC's toughest opener since Bob Huggins' first game as the Bearcats' coach in 1989-90 against No. 20 Minnesota.

     • Dec. 14 at Xavier: Huggins squares off against Thad Matta for the first time.

     • Jan. 19 vs. Louisville: The first Huggins-Rick Pitino showdown - at The Shoe.

     • Feb. 9 at Wake Forest: Huggins renews acquaintances with former XU coach Skip Prosser.

     • Feb. 27 at Louisville: Round Two at Freedom Hall.

     • March 3 vs. No. 12 Memphis : The two C-USA division favorites go at it.

     - Michael Perry

    

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