If you take a gander over to UC’s list of commitments for the class of 2012 you’ll see that the Bearcats have landed exactly one recruit. The quick reaction is to panic considering the season is over and Cincinnati just now got on the board with few recruits left. Before you step off the ledge it’s appropriate to understand the circumstances surrounding this year’s class. Gone will be starting guard Dion Dixon and power forward Yancy Gates so they will need to be replaced. By and large basketball recruiting and football recruiting are two different animals. Football coaches fill their recruiting boards to fulfill long term needs to add depth to key areas. It’s only in extreme circumstances that these coaches recruit players for them to play as true freshmen. Basketball coaches on the other hand create much smaller recruiting boards and recruit to fulfill immediate needs. So it’s not farfetched to think Dixon and Gates would be replaced with a guard and a power forward in a 1-to-1 switch. It just so happens that Dixon was replaced by a 6’7″ small forward which doesn’t really surprise me since UC has a surplus of guards and needs help underneath.
There is another factor at play here. Power forward Octavius Ellis and the ever hyped small forward Shaq Thomas were both redshirted this season so you can essentially count them towards the 2012 class. Even so Cincinnati will be extremely young in the front court next season with Yancy Gates graduating. JUCO transfer Cheikh Mbodj will be the lone senior on the team with Justin Jackson the only other upperclassman at this position. There is of course Titus Rubles but he doesn’t have any experience in UC’s system. Everyone else will be freshman and sophomores. The back court no the other hand will be much more experienced with three seniors, a junior, and two sophomores. So even though the Bearcats have lost a guard and forward, Mick Cronin understands that replacing Yancy Gates is no easy task and will try to add post players to this class.
Titus Rubles: The 6’7″ish JUCO small forward committed to Cincinnati on Monday.
Chris Obekpa: The 6’8″ power forward is a prized target for most college programs right now but his importance to Cincinnati is unmatched. By far Obekpa is Mick Cronin’s #1 target. He visited Clifton during the weekend the Bearcats obliterated their arch rival Louisville in front of a blacked out 5/3rd Arena. The high school senior must have been impressed with that performance from UC. Obekpa’s commitment will go a long way to replacing the production of graduating senior Yancy Gates. Really there hasn’t been a proven replacement for him this season. Cheikh Mbodj has shown progress later in the season, Octavius Ellis has been very hyped by the coaching staff, and Kelvin Gaines has been riding the bench. There’s no reason to think Obekpa can’t be that guy as a true freshman next season. He is expected to declare in April and will likely choose between Cincinnati, UConn, St. John’s and Providence. Obekpa visited the Johnnies this past weekend.
Ryan Taylor: He was first a member of the 2011 class before opting for a stint at a the popular prep school Hargrave Military Academy. In that season he packed on about 15 lbs making it easier for him to drive inside. But the small forward from Louisville, Kentucky may have become an afterthought in the recruiting process with Titus Rubles committing to the Bearcats. Like I mentioned, schollies are tight at Cincy and Mick can only afford to take one small forward in this class. If Obekpa commits elsewhere Mick might go after Taylor once again. The UC head coach would then go for broke in 2013 by snatching up the biggest and best power forwards he can find.
Carlos Morris: There’s probably a less than 10% chance that Mick is still recruiting the talented 6’5″ Morris. Even though he decommitted from South Carolina and is very long for his position, Cincinnati has about a thousand guards on the roster right now. There simply isn’t much room for him and there won’t be a need at this position until 2013. Cashmere Wright, Jaquon Parker, and to a lesser extent Alex Eppensteiner will need to be replaced. That’s when Mick will try to again load up on guards. The only reason I think there might be a remote possibility Mick is still going after Morris is that he hails from Arlington Country Day School. This is the same school where Cronin found Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines so there is some connection there.
Trency Jackson: Per Rivals this shooting guard holds an offer from Cincinnati along with those from some pretty solid programs such as Pitt, Kansas State, and Marquette. But I highly doubt Mick is still recruiting this kid. He is a guard like Carlos Morris but his major disadvantage is that he’s a JUCO. Like I mentioned, Cincinnati will have 4 upperclassmen guards on the roster for the 2012-13 season. They don’t have a need for a two-year player at this position.
First of all, thank goodness Titus Rubles committed because I was seriously getting worried there for a minute. Mick’s biggest priority right now is to replace Yancy Gates. While it’s not easy it can be done and specifically by snagging a commitment from Chris Obekpa. All signs point to an Obekpa-Cincy signing in April. The power forward would get significant playing time as a true freshman, really got a sense of the fanaticism of the Bearcat fanbase during his visit last month, the Cincinnati basketball program is clearly rebuilt, and Mick can point to Yancy Gates as an example of him coaching up a big man into the NBA. Yes, Yancy will probably get drafted. But you never really know with recruits and it would definitely sting if Obekpa signed elsewhere as there aren’t many quality big men left in the 2012 class.
So really, Obekpa or bust.