Meet The New Bearcats: A Cheat Sheet

[photo by Emily Witt | OhVarsity!]

[photo by Emily Witt | OhVarsity!]

While the book closed on the Mick Cronin era with his April departure for UCLA, Cronin's influence will remain in Clifton until his final recruit graduates. In less than three months, new Bearcats head coach John Brannen has overseen a roster retooling that featured an acceleration of that process.

The Bearcats will enter the 2019-20 season with more Brannen recruits (seven) than Cronin recruits (six). I suppose this isn't tremendously unusual in the aftermath of a coaching change, but the shifting roster has still been startling to watch—at least speaking for myself. A couple of weeks ago, the program's official Twitter account shared a photo of practice, and there was a kid whose face I couldn't immediately place.

This freaked me out.

So here we are. There are going to be new players filling significant roles starting this fall, so we better get a head start on wrapping our brains around the seismic roster shift.

Here are the names, faces, and origins of Cincinnati's seven new Bearcats.

Jaevin Cumberland

Position: Wing/Shooting Guard
Eligibility: Immediate, one season

Jaevin Cumberland is a graduate transfer shooting guard from Oakland University (which is in Rochester, MI, not Oakland, CA). He's the cousin of current Bearcat and defending AAC Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland. Jaevin is 18 months older and graduated HS one year earlier.

The pair played together at Cincinnati's Wilmington High School—Jaevin set the Wilmington career points record with 1,846 and Jarron broke it with 2,383 a year later. The team went 24-2, finishing as SCOL Champions in Jaevin's senior season. They went 27-2, repeating as SCOL Champions and reaching the Div. 1 Final Four in Jarron's senior season.

Jaevin exploded in his redshirt junior year at Oakland. He played in 55 total games (zero starts) as a freshman and sophomore, averaging just six minutes and two points per game. In 2017-18, he was shut down after only eight games due to a chronic ankle injury. He took a redshirt year and returned for a re-do on his junior season in 2018-19, starting all 33 of the team's games and averaging 37 minutes and 17.2 points while shooting 39.9% on eight three-point attempts per game. He made at least one three-pointer in each of Oakland's 2018-19 games. Since at least 2010-11, no Bearcat has done so. By my research, the closest came in 2013-14 when SK made one in 33 of 34 games (Nebraska the exception).

Jaevin Cumberland’s last game at Oakland? A 27-point outburst fueled by 7-for-14 from deep against… Brannen’s NKU Norse.

Jaume "Jay" Sorolla

Position: Center
Eligibility: Immediate, one season

Jay Sorolla is another graduate transfer—this time from Valpo.

Valparaiso is in Northern Indiana, about an hour from Chicago. They're in the MVC but played in the Horizon League until 2017. This means that, like Jaevin Cumberland, Brannen has coached against Sorolla. In two early 2017 games, the seven-footer played a total of 37 minutes against Brannen's Norse, scoring ten total points and grabbing five rebounds.

While Sorolla has averaged just 17.7 minutes across 89 career games (starting roughly a third of those), it's easy to see what Brannen likes. He's got great size. He's listed at seven feet, and the latest update from the Monster Factory indicates he's lept from 235 at the start of the offseason program to 256 just 13 days later. That's a big body off the bench.

He has a track record on the court, as well. In the ninth game of his career, he came off the bench for 14 minutes against Kentucky and managed to notch eight points and nine boards. He also recorded a double-double against a good Oakland team (off the bench) a few weeks later. He had big games as a junior, too. In his first start of last season, he dropped 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go with four rebounds and five blocks.

Sorolla is from Tortosa, Spain. Before enrolling at Valpo, he played one season at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas, so he's familiar with the stomping grounds of at least one conference foe. He represented his native Spain on several FIBA teams from 2013 to 2017.

Per his Twitter bio, he drives a MINI Cooper. I have no idea how this is possible for a man of his stature.

Chris Vogt

Position: Center
Northern Kentucky
Eligibility: Sit one, play two

While Jaevin Cumberland and Jay Sorolla previously played against Brannen, Vogt played for him. It's safe to assume the junior from NKU will not be eligible this season, which means he'll take a redshirt year, bulk up, and play two seasons starting in 2020-21.

While taking a backup center from Northern Kentucky is not the flashiest move, there is a lot to like about Vogt if you look closer. First of all, he was no slouch out of high school. His 247Sports Composite rating of 0.8542 is good for three stars. It’s also higher than starting power forward Trevon Scott was rated out of high school. His familiarity with Brannen's system will be an asset, even before he's eligible to play. He's also 7-foot-1, which doesn't grow on trees. And while he was listed at just 240 pounds last year, it stands to reason a redshirt season will give director of sports performance Mike Rehfeldt a chance to throw 20+ pounds on that frame so he can go blow-for-blow with some of the more physical bigs in the American.

Vogt has also shown tremendous flashes on the court. In a January 2019 game against Green Bay, he unloaded 20 points and 14 rebounds on 9-for-13 shooting. The only Bearcats to put up 20 and 14 since 2010 are Yancy Gates (against Xavier) and Gary Clark (against Buffalo). They did it in 37 and 35 minutes, respectively. Vogt did it in 26. (I should note that Justin Jackson got very close to the Vogt stat line in a 2013 game against Chicago State, going for 19 points and 13 rebounds on 9-for-14 shooting in 25 minutes.)

The kid also has a track record on the defensive end. He was a menace at Mayfield, Kentucky’s Graves County High School. I’ll let GoBearcats take it away:

A dominating shot blocker in high school, Vogt's 488 career blocks rank second most in state history. His 190 blocks as a junior rank as the third most in a season in state history. He tied the state high mark for blocks in a game with 17 while registering a triple-double with 16 rebounds and 12 points against Webster County on Jan. 16, 2016. He also rejected 16 shots against Caldwell County later that same season.

Chris McNeal

Position: Point Guard
Previously: Tennessee Tech
Eligibility: Immediate, one season

With the graduations of Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome, Mick Cronin's plan for the 2019-20 season had been to roll with sophomore Logan Johnson at point guard. Now Cronin and Johnson are both gone, and John Brannen needed bodies at point guard quickly. He addressed this issue by bringing in some high school recruits, but it's tough to count on freshmen in big minutes, especially at the point guard position.

Enter Chris McNeal. He may be college basketball's preeminent journeyman. As a high schooler in the 2015 class, he committed to Western Kentucky. He was an immediate contributor for the Hilltoppers, starting 29 games as a true freshman, averaging six points, four rebounds, and four assists—setting the program's freshman assist record.

McNeal left WKU after the season, eventually landing at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, where he started 33 games as a sophomore, averaging 13 points, five assists, and three rebounds while shooting 38% from outside. McNeal's junior season saw him return to the Division 1 ranks at New Mexico. As a Lobo, he started 18 of 34 games, averaging nearly ten points per game with three assists and two rebounds.

Again, McNeal transferred following the season, deciding on Tennessee Tech. As this was the first time he was moving between Div. 1 programs, he would serve a redshirt season in 2018-19 while gearing up to play his senior season in 2019-20. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles went 8-23 as he sat, and the school fired head coach Steve Payne. Meanwhile, McNeal had earned his degree, making him a graduate transfer eligible to choose a new school and play his final season.

Now McNeal makes it to Cincinnati. He's been around the block, and his experience comes at the perfect time. Not many kids have been forced to learn a new city, school, coach, team, and system five times in five years. While the transition to Brannen feels like a whirlwind to Bearcat faithful, it's business as usual for their new point guard.

Mika Adams-Woods

Position: Guard
Previously: New Hampton School, NH (originally from Syracuse, NY)
Eligibility: Immediate, four years

Mika (pronounced Micah, not 'Meeka') Adams-Woods is a lefty guard who ended up in Cincinnati by way of some unique circumstances. When Mick Cronin left for UCLA, local four-star guard Samari Curtis—who committed initially to Xavier before Chris Mack's departure allowed UC to swoop in and land his commitment—re-opened his recruitment and eventually chose Nebraska. Nebraska is coming off the firing of head coach Tim Miles, who the school later replaced with former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. Much like what was happening in Clifton, Huskers commits were re-evaluating their decisions in the wake of the Miles firing. One of these commits—Adams-Woods—felt it best to explore new avenues and wound up in Clifton.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the Bearcats essentially, albeit unknowingly, traded Curtis for Adams-Woods. It's a bizarre narrative that will be fun to follow as the two careers develop. Does it ultimately matter if Hoiberg can use Curtis more effectively than Brannen can use Adams-Woods? Not really. But the two players are now linked for the duration of their college careers, just as Brannen will be continuously held up against the accomplishments of Cronin. Sports are soap operas.

MAW, as I'll inevitably call him over the next four years, comes to Clifton after spending a single year at New Hampton School in New Hampshire, where he averaged 19 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals while shooting 42.5% from deep. Before his time in New Hampshire, he played three seasons at Syracuse, New York's Bishop Ludden High School, where he averaged 19.8 points as a junior, earning first-team All-Central New York recognition.

Jeremiah Davenport

Position: Wing/Shooting Guard
Previously: Hargrave Military Academy, VA (originally from Cincinnati)
Eligibility: Immediate, four years

Selfishly, Davenport is my favorite new addition. There's just something special about local kids. I'd run through a wall for Jarron Cumberland, Kevin Johnson was always a favorite of mine, and I've been beating the Yancy Gates drum for years. One thing we haven't experienced, at least this explicitly, is a kid who comes in the door as a fan of the Bearcats and those same local players I just listed. Davenport says he grew up cheering for Yancy. He's already walking around The Shoe in UC garb from home.

Squint a little bit, and you can see shades of Sean Kilpatrick. SK was unheralded out of high school and needed a year at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts to get onto the radar of the schools he wanted to attend. Upon arriving at UC, he found himself in the shadow of Lance Stephenson and took a redshirt year before exploding for 2,000 points in his UC career. Expecting anyone to follow SK's path directly is unfair, but Davenport aligns pretty well for now.

He graduated from Cincinnati's Moeller High School in 2018, where he—and 2019 top-10 NBA Draft pick Jaxson Hayes—led the Crusaders to back-to-back state title appearances, winning in 2018 with the help of 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists from Davenport. While Hayes jetted off to Texas for a season before making the NBA leap, Davenport, fresh off a Greater Cincinnati Sports Award for the city's best basketball player, went to prep school like Kilpatrick. When Brannen took the UC job, he brought Davenport home. Now the 6'7" freshman finds himself a year removed from high school and, like SK, maybe a year removed from collegiate playing time—at least of any significant quantity. (I haven't heard serious rumors of a redshirt season for Davenport, but playing time figures to be scarce with the wealth of talent next year's team has at the wing.)

Davenport has the basketball pedigree. His brothers played at St. Bonaventure and Winthrop; his sister played at West Virginia. Now Jeremiah is staring down hometown glory in Clifton. I can't wait to watch.

Zach Harvey

Position: Guard
Previously: Prolific Prep, CA (Originally from Topeka, KS)
Eligibility: Immediate, four years

The Bearcats' final, late addition to the 2019-20 roster was Kansas guard Zach Harvey. Harvey brings a 247Sports Composite rating of 0.9817, making him the nation's #45 player in the 2019 class and Cincinnati's highest-rated recruit since Jermaine Lawrence in 2013. Given the conclusion of Lawrence's tenure in Clifton, it seems fair to say Harvey expectations will be more in line with UC's next most recent top-50, 4-star recruit: Yancy Gates. Harvey had reported offers from Kansas, Ohio State, UCLA, and Xavier, among others. In short, this is a big one.

As a senior, Harvey played in just 11 games for Napa, California's Prolific Prep before going down with a season-ending ankle injury. In that small sample size, he compiled averages of 16.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. As a junior at Topeka, Kansas' Hayden High School, Harvey led his team to the state title game where he racked up a game-high 34 points.

Harvey, a 2019 graduate, initially decided to re-classify to the 2020 class and play a season at prep school after legal issues brought complications to his recruitment. In June 2018, Harvey pleaded no-contest to two misdemeanors stemming from an incident the year prior involving "a sexually explicit image or video of a child younger than 18 years old." The issue is reportedly resolved from a legal standpoint, although UC did their due diligence (and operated with transparency) in vetting Harvey's admission.

I'm torn on how to feel about this, but I think Mo Egger stated my position elegantly. I believe in second chances, and I have a tough time arguing that the actions of a high school sophomore, at least in this case, deserve life-altering consequences. On the other hand, I'm protective of my alma mater and those who have the privilege to represent it. We're talking about a program that has been, comparatively at least, squeaky clean for years. Brannen has yet to earn my trust in these types of things. I don't have a reason to distrust him, and Mike Bohn's seal of approval is a step in the right direction, but Brannen making moves that draw scrutiny after two and a half months on the job is something I've been processing.

This goes without saying, but I’ll be rooting for Harvey, and I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews about his attitude and responsibility regarding his past.

It took Brannen less than three months to sign Cincinnati's most lauded recruit since UC was a member of the Big East. With the good news comes the uncertainty Mo discussed. Times are changing in Clifton.