Cincinnati freshmen: early look

An experienced battery has enabled the Bearcats to achieve strong early returns and bring their freshmen along slowly, while next season the newcomers will play a greater role.

Cincinnati didn't sign the kind of class that opened eyes nationally, because after the top 10 or 15, most consider classes "good" rather than "great." Nevertheless, they signed a potential star in power forward Jermaine Lawrence, and not surprisingly the former No. 19 prospect in the Class of 2013 has earned 17 minutes per game.

But Lawrence faced a particularly challenging transition from high school to college. He injured his wrist prior to his senior year and, after playing wounded during the 2012 summer, ultimately had to undergo surgery. That setback prevented him from developing as much he'd have liked just prior to enrolling at U-C.

His production thus far this season has been modest, as he's averaging just five points a game on 44 percent shooting. He's certainly capable of much better and, after the Bearcats lose some players to graduation, should be able to log heavier court time next season.

Three star guard recruit Troy Caupin actually leads Bearcat freshmen in minutes. He also is not contributing much in the way of stats, but just the fact that he plays 18 minutes per night indicates how much the coaching staff believes in him heading forward.

Another three star guard, Kevin Johnson, plays a bit less and is 0-10 on the season from three-point range. Mick Cronin has said he wants his freshmen to exhibit confidence, however, and being aggressive with his offense should carry favor even while Johnson learns on the job.

Center Jamaree Strickland has struggled with injury and accompanying weight issues the past couple years, but the hope is that he'll bring beef to the lineup. He encountered an NCAA eligibility snag, however, and has yet to take the court. Another three star guard, Deshaun Morman, broke his foot during the fall and is expected to redshirt this season.

We aren't expecting huge things from any Bearcat newcomer this year, but the fact that a good team can find regular team for three guys already (especially Caupin and Lawrence) bodes well for the program's future.

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