The Rebirth of Slick
Chopping it up with Bearcats leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick as the Bearcats head into the Big East tourney.
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
On December 11th, it’s a very safe bet that no one saw this coming. Not even the most die-hard of die-hard westsider Cincinnati Bearcats fans. At 5-3, with a loss to their in-city rival Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout that was memorable because it didn’t end well for all parties involved, things were in a real tailspin to say the least.
The old men in my family say that when you deal with adversity, you either evolve or you get left behind. For the Bearcats, a 4-guard offense, an uptempo style of play and leadership emerging from new sources have provided a new sense of hope for those wearing the red and black.
Sean Kilpatrick was gracious enough to give SLAMonline a few minutes to reflect on the tumultuous 2011-12 campaign for UC, as the Bearcats have locked up the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. The sophomore guard from White Plains, N.Y. is the team leader with 14.6 ppg, and he spoke about the shift in strategy for the team and going back home to play in NYC.
SLAM: How do you feel about your performance through the regular season thus far?
Sean Kilpatrick: Dealing with the fact that we have a young team, we’ve done well thus far. We’ve finished up strong (with a win over Villanova) and it’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out with us as the No. 4 seed.
SLAM: After the Crosstown Shootout brawl, how do you think things changed with the Bearcats?
SK: After that game it definitely brought us a lot closer. We were really trying to find ourselves as a team prior to, and afterwards we became closer and made each every single one of us more of a family unit. We turned a negative into a positive.
SLAM: Talk about how much the style of play of the Bearcats changed after the brawl.
SK: It made us change to a 4-guard lineup, when we’re out there on the court with four guards and one big like Yancy Gates it puts pressure on opposing teams. The lineup helped us build confidence too, and it made us a lot faster in our transition and half-court offenses.
SLAM: Talk about the seniors on this Bearcats squad in Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates.
SK: In the three years I’ve been here, both Yancy and Dion have shown tremendous leadership. They’re both extremely vocal and its been a great ride playing with them. Its an honor to say that I’ve played with both of those guys and I’m really happy for their future, they’ve worked their tails off.
SLAM: You’re leading the team in scoring with 15.5 points/game as a redshirt sophomore, what’s changed in your game this season?
SK: I’m a lot more focused in my role this season. This year I’m a starter, versus last year I came off the bench and my role was to really just score. This season I have a real opportunity to play a balanced game, able to focus even more on defense and rebounding to help my team win. Things have changed a lot, and its helping this Bearcats team be successful.
SLAM: Looking back, how does your current standing this season compare to where you thought you’d be to begin?
SK: Well, its been a wild ride. We’ve been harping on the fact that, “we can be one of the elite teams in the Big East.” I’m satisfied on where we’re at, but we can be even better.
SLAM: Have you noticed a change in head coach Mick Cronin during the season?
SK: He’s been more comfortable with our guard play, we’re playing four guards virtually all game. He still has the same confidence he had beginning in the season, if anything its even higher now.
SLAM: What do you guys have to do differently to prepare for playing in the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden?
SK: Man, its crazy. Madison Square Garden feels 10-times bigger than any arena we’ll play in all season. We know that we’re going to a different atmosphere and a bigger crowd. For me personally, its always good to go home (White Plains, NY) and I always have fun, but most importantly we want to win. That’s our biggest goal is to win.
SLAM: How deep will the family be coming up to see you in the Garden?
SK: It’s crazy because a lot of the players on the team are from the Northeast, so we end up sharing our ticket allotment at times because we get flooded with requests.
SLAM: What’s the one thing you’d tell Bearcats fans to expect from you guys in the Big East tournament?
SK: To be ready for us to come home with a Big East championship, because that is the goal. That’s every Big East school’s goal, but that’s our goal because we’ve been working hard for the last 9 months. It feels good to get to this point, but we want to come back with the victory first and foremost.