Saturday, February 1, 2003

Cincinnati-Xavier Q&A

For UC and every team, big men in short supply

By Bill Koch and Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Q. From Graham: There's no question the Bearcats have absolutely no inside game this year. Do you think Donald Little's presence would make the difference between this team and a solid Top 25 team?

A. Donald Little would make a huge difference on this team. Would they be at top 10 team? Maybe. But they would definitely be a Top 25 team. Little's presence in the middle would prevent teams from double teaming Jason Maxiell and open up the offense.

Q. From Dan: Now that UC has lost on the road, does this mean they can get rid of those hideous red uniforms? Those uniforms look worse than the way they played Wednesday night against DePaul.

A. There's a good chance that UC will be wearing the black uniforms again next Wednesday at Louisville. They do look pretty bad, don't they?

Question, from Steve: Why can't Cincinnati recruit a true big man? B.J. Grove does not count. The Bearcats' last true center was Corie Blount. After UC gets waxed by Marquette, Louisville and Oklahoma State, it won't belong in the NCAA Tournament. You don't win with 6-foot-7 guys playing out of position.

Answer: Look around and you won't find too many programs that do have a dominating true center in their lineup. There just aren't that many to go around. I do think Donald Little, who was removed from the team in April because of legal problems, was a true big man at 6-11, especially with his shot-blocking ability, although he was not a polished offensive player. Next season, UC will have 6-10 junior-college transfer Robert Whaley at center, assuming he doesn't decide to go to the NBA. I think he might fit your description of a true big man. If he does play at UC next year, Hicks won't have to worry about playing center.

Q. From Leah: I find it very amusing that during the end of most UC basketball games, John Meeker, the most amazing walk-on ever, gets a large crowd reaction. From the players' reactions, it seems to me that Meeker is sort of like a baby brother of the team and everyone loves to see him play. Do you think he will have more playing time in his two remaining years at UC?

A. Most amazing walk-on ever? UC has had some pretty good walk-ons during the Huggins era. How about Steve Sanders, the football player who walked on to lead the Metro Conference in 3-point shooting? Or Brent Petrus, another football player who walked on and became a starter? Or Jamaal Lucas, a walk-on who sees more playing time on this year's team than Meeker? Meeker is fun to watch because he plays so hard and he's not afraid to fire up shots. Yes, he is popular among the other players. He has a great attitude and seems happy just to be part of the UC program. He's a sophomore from Troy (Ohio) High School where he won first-team all-conference and all-district honors, averaging 17.5 points per game. He also played football as a defensive back and return specialist. He faces long odds in attempting to secure more playing time in the future. His biggest problem is that he's not very strong physically and no matter how hard he tries, he can't gain weight. Next year he'll face competition from Chadd Moore, Lucas and incoming junior college transfer Nick Williams.

Q, from Jay in Florence: how is Keith Jackson's defense? You would think with his athleticism he could be stifling, and when Lionel Chalmers returns the team as a whole can turn up the defensive intensity because it essentially will have five more fouls to give.

A: Jackson's athleticism allows him to guard a variety of players and has helped him improve his rebounding this season. The next step for Jackson is to use his athleticism even more by making plays on defense, such as steals that set up fast-break points. He has a tendency right now to go as hard as possible on defense, partly because he knows he has to play most of the game.

You're right that when Chalmers returns the Musketeers will be able to play harder defense, but not necessarily with fouls in mind. If you notice, Xavier doesn't foul near as much as other teams. This is a coaching philosophy that intense defense can be played without fouling. Instead, Chalmers will give XU an extra body to sub in and out.

E-mail with UC questions for Koch, XU questions for Dow.

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