Cincinnati Bearcats ‘09-10 Preview
Born Ready to make immediate contributions.
Several months ago, a friend brought to my attention some growing hearsay: Cincinnati reached out to Lincoln High School phenom Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson.
I thought to myself, The chances are about as likely as Ron Jeremy being warped in a dry spell in the mid-‘80s. No way! I thought it was a fabrication of a rumor! I wrote it off as another word around the blazing Coney Island beach fire, moving at a furious pace. I didn’t consider it true.
Stephenson, an extraterrestrial athlete and superior scorer was pursued by a bevy of the nation’s top-flight schools a year ago. For a plethora of reasons, he was the last high-end recruit standing, and he was left with only a few feasible options.
His recruiting tailed off; the media punctured his image.
A few months and more rumors than a f*cking sewing circle later, my buddy’s words proved prophetic. No longer do the sea of hoopheads aggressively examine the wunderkind’s college options. They are now, however, curious as to whether he will be eligible come winter time. No longer are there whispers about Stephenson bolting for Europe, a move hype artists swore would happen.
It’s hard to believe one of the country’s elite ballers is heading to a pulse-lacking program stuffed in the Big East’s lower percentile. Then again, Stephenson’s recruiting process was constantly marred by controversy. More rumors than a Perez Hilton blog—many of which indicated subversive maneuvers—surfaced, triggering a manifesto of hate on the young gun following the righteous steps of Sebastian Telfair and Starbury.
Stephenson is laughing his way to the Big East now, ducking the long arm of the NCAA clearinghouse while exploding for violent, rim-ringing bangers. With the NCAA in private investigator mode—cracking down on high-majors like UConn, Memphis, and the now baller-barren USC—the circus may be heading to the Ohio River before we know it.
On the other side of the coin, the 6-6 guard from Brooklyn could help revive an ailing program. He forms a dynamic 1-2 punch with 6-1 shootist Deonta Vaughn (15.3 ppg, 4.7 apg), an All-Big East selection who’s always had the right to bear arms. The Bearcats also boast a blossoming young forward in sophomore Yancy Gates (10.6 ppg, 48% FG). Gates could be a dependable beneficiary of Stephenson’s flashy dishes inside.
If the controversial Stephenson can circumvent the ever-growing NCAA investigation process and shed oft-noticed attitude issues, a Bearcat resurgence may be in the cards. It all adds some buzz in a conference over saturated with the nation’s top-tier guards.
KEY LOSSES: None.
Deonta Vaughn | 6-1 | Guard | Senior
Indiana-bred sniper shouldered the scoring onus for three straight years at Cinci. Now, with a solid nucleus replenished, Vaughn has the chance to steer the big Bearcat boat into uncharted waters. The kid who hit up Notre Dame for a 34-spot deletes some of the stress of do-it-all guard with the presence of Stephenson. The kid known as “Born Ready” is a big guard who can score buckets by the bunches, shredding defenses like its just another day on Gotham’s streetball circuit. Still, in his final season as a Bearcat, Vaughn needs to bring the ratchet every game. In the last leg of his storied career, Vaughn can’t fade away into the abyss like he did during losses to Pitt and Louisville.
Yancy Gates | 6-9 | Forward | Sophomore
A 22-point, 11-board showing in a win over West Virginia showed just how dominant the blossoming Gates could be when he roams the paint and executes an arsenal of post moves. If the Bearcats’ homegrown product can show more consistency, they’ll have the services of a veritable walking double double next season.
Dion Dixon | 6-3 | Guard | Sophomore
The Chicago native provides solid minutes off the bench, but he must rectify his stroke. The trigger-happy Dixon also needs to alter a suspect shot selection. Dixon gets to the rim and draws fouls, and is active on the glass for a guard.
Larry Davis | 6-3 | Guard | Junior
A feast-or-famine piece to the flooded Cinci backcourt puzzle, Davis (6.8 ppg) tends to weather his storms with El Aziza-hot shooting. He proved he can heat it up during flashes last season, dropping 21 points on 8-14 FG in the Notre Dame win.
Rashad Bishop | 6-6 | Forward | Junior
Gives Mick Cronin quality minutes and can turn in double-digit scoring affairs against Big East bullies. Once again, Bishop is another player that’s too erratic to become an essential ingredient. Look for Bishop’s numbers to spike in ‘09-10.
Another key newcomer is White Plains’ Sean Kilpatrick, who spent a post-graduate year over at Notre Dame Prep, a widely-recognized basketball factory. It was at White Plains that Kilpatrick truly embraced the scoring cyborg within him. Under Spencer Mayfield’s we-before-me, no-nonsense style, Kilpatrick helped put the Tigers on the map his senior year.
He cemented his reputation as a player who could score in clusters with a 44-point outburst, though he struggled in the Jordan Brand Classic Regional game (1-for-10, two points). Kilpatrick shot less and passed more at Notre Dame Prep. He began handing out dimes like a frat house hands out jungle juice and his ability to create added to his game.
The only hurdle was academics.
So Kilpatrick made the trek to Fitchburg, MA (the trip that top-shelf ballers like Michael Beasley and Paul Harris all made) and cleared the hurdle while simultaneously leading the race.
“At first, I wasn’t really crazy about doing an extra year,” said Kilpatrick, rockin’ a Yankees fitted hat before a thick entourage of family, friends, and an adviser at the National Invitational in Providence in November.
“You know thinking about it now, doing a prep year, it’s not a bad idea.”