Saturday marked our first look at what figures to be the best Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team in about 15 years. Intrasquad scrimmages are always hard to get a read on, because guys will never play all-out in a practice game, especially against their own teammates. Regardless, I think we learned a few things, and I feel like I have a good handle on who this team will be and how they’ll play. I can’t wait to see them in action against another squad. Until then, here’s what we know:
Cane Broome: Cane started the game with the reserves but flipped to the starters in the second half. He and Justin played all 40 minutes, which felt like a deliberate plan to get those guys ready to bust ass all season. Much like this scrimmage last season, Broome was great. What struck me most was his versatility. We all know about his ability to cut to the basket, and he did that. However, he also shot 3-of-4 from outside. Every time he had the ball looking to attack, I didn’t know if he’d blow by his defender or drill one from deep. That’s pretty fun. Imagine Jarron Cumberland mixed with Farrad Cobb. Or just imagine Nick Van Exel.
Jarron Cumberland: Cumberland had 14 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Why do I kinda feel like he and Jacob Evans are fringe candidates for a triple double this year? Overall, Jarron looked like Jarron. The kid can pass, drive, and shoot. He’s going to be in a situation where he’s not the main focus, and that should allow him to thrive. I think it’s easy to forget that he looked very sturdy as a freshman, yet still hasn’t started his first college game. This kid could have a really special year and we haven’t even begun to see what he can do as a major contributor.
Jacob Evans: Jacob struggled a bit with his shot, but we know what he can do, so I’m not worried. He chipped in 10 rebounds and seven assists to go with it. Again, I think he and Jarron have a chance to record a triple double this season. For the first time, the team is going to lean on Jacob, and it’ll be very fun to watch how he reacts. He’s likely going to be the leading scorer, which should be fun, and he’s also going to be the one they turn to when the game is on the line and they need a bucket. Given UC’s schedule this year, Jake is going to be in a lot of pressure situations against teams like Xavier, Florida, UCLA, and Wichita. I’m thrilled to watch him handle it.
Gary Clark: More than anything, Gary’s defense is what stuck out to me. He notched 11 points and shot 2-for-3 from outside, but he also had a couple steals to go with three fantastic blocks. It’s common knowledge at this point that Gary is one of the best glue guys in the country. I can’t wait to see how he plays that role with the best, most cohesive supporting cast he’s ever had. If the starting lineup is a wheel, Gary is the hub. He’s going to be at the center, doing a little bit of everything, holding it all together.
Kyle Washington: Kyle went off. He led both teams with 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting. I don’t think Cronin wants him being the leading scorer, but I am a big fan of the efficient 2-for-2 shooting from outside. If he can choose his spots from deep, UC will be able to stretch the floor really well and open lanes for Broome, Cumberland, and Evans. Efficiency and consistency were issues for Kyle last season, as was his defense. He seemed a bit better in those areas on Saturday, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
Tre Scott: I’m starting with Tre because I think he may wind up being this team’s sixth man. Given his experience and versatility, I think Mick will end up trusting him with a fair bit of playing time. Saturday showed us why, as he finished with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds. I can’t wait to see how he can contribute, because he should be a very valuable piece this season.
Justin Jenifer: Justin should be unleashed this season. For the first time in his career, he’s going to be backing up a point guard with a similar style — or at least pace — as himself. When he enters the game, he won’t be doing his best Troy Caupain impression, he can simply be Justin. On Saturday, he finished with 11 points and eight assists. He had two turnovers in 40 minutes, and hopefully that can continue as the season progresses. Injuries aside, the only thing that can stop this team are turnovers. Right now Mick is trying to manage two talented guards who tend to be prone to doing exactly that.
Keith Williams: Oh man, this kid is going to be a ton of fun. In the past, had you stuck a bunch of Mick’s young bench players on a team together, I’m not sure anyone would’ve known what to do. On Saturday, Williams said, “Oh neat, I get to be the number one scoring option!” He seemed perfectly happy to take 21 shots. He wasn’t the most efficient, but he did finish with 20 points and he looked very comfortable gunning for the bucket, something we haven’t seen in a while outside of Jarron Cumberland. He’ll need to work on turnovers and shot selection, but what freshman doesn’t? He’s got the intangibles down.
Nysier Brooks: 14 points and 10 rebounds is exactly what I’d expect from Nas. Even as Mick shifts to this looser, quicker, more fluid style, he still has a soft spot for these kinds of enforcers. Brooks will contribute, especially against teams that run out guys like UCF does with Tacko Fall.
Eliel Nsoseme: Nysier Brooks 2.0? The two are similar, but Eliel is slightly more compact. Think of him as a bulkier Justin Jackson, at least from a size standpoint. He quietly delivered 10 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Most notably, he had five offensive boards. I’m interested to see how Mick sneaks him into the rotation this year.
Trevor Moore: Moore struggled, shooting just 2-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-5 from outside. He’s probably the first shooterthe Bearcats have had since Field Williams, so you’re going to get these kinds of cold outings. Even though they weren’t going in, I saw a few Kyle Korver-esque moments that made me really excited. Trevor is one of those guys that should thrive when plopped into a very talented lineup where he doesn’t have to carry the weight of the team. He can be a spot-up shooter for this team, especially until he gets his feet under him.
Mamoudou Diarra: Diarra played just 20 minutes and looked really, really raw. We expected this. I’m curious if a redshirt season is in the cards, because I don’t see him contributing this season and I think Mick will want him around for when that raw talent starts to materialize in a few years. He reminds me of early-career Justin Jackson or Shaq Thomas. You can see the pieces there. It’ll take patience, but the athleticism will be next level.