I started to write about the ups and downs of the Bearcat basketball program over the past season. But by the fifth paragraph I felt you already knew all the information on the page. So I went in a different direction and have the following look at what's up in this program that has seen its share of turmoil in the past year.
Coming off the defeat against Kentucky, Bearcat fans were all a joy with what the future held. With a move into a "Power" conference and the young bright talent looking to take the court the future seemed very bright. But much has changed since that tournament game.
No more than a week after Kentucky, Assistant Coach Keith LeGree was arrested for driving while under the influence. An instant suspension followed and the Bearcats went into recruiting season short a coach.
While the Bearcats have been down this road before, two other coaches were in the running for head coaching jobs of their own. With talk of both coaches being gone, Bearcat fans started to wonder what was in store for the program and its head coach Bob Huggins.
As the days passed and neither assistant left, questions started to circle around Coach Huggins and his standing with the university. With a contract that ends after the 2007 season, the staff hit the recruiting trail to finish up the 2005 class and put a foot forward for the Class of 2006.
Things looked up as the Bearcats chased two big men to finish the 05 class. The talk on the street had both Ivan Johnson and Darrell Harris becoming key parts of the 05 team. Things were on track as Johnson signed and made himself an official member of the Bearcat family. Then something strange and unexpected happen. Instead of signing another big man, the Bearcats signed a guard how flew under the radar of those who follow hoops as a profession.
Dominic Tilford may not have the big name many Bearcat fans were looking for, but you can't knock his numbers. The ultra-quick guard will enter UC with a large chip on his shoulder and the ability to score. While most Bearcat recruits go through Coach Kennedy, it's believed Coach Huggins hand-picked Dominic to be part of his first Big East team.
But just when you though the Class of 2005 was finished, the Bearcats saw two major developments happen within the program. While many felt someone else would leave the program, no one expected to see Vincent Banks to be the one. So as things become clearer about the signing of Tilford, things quickly took another turn.
By the time Tilford's ink dried, another loss came to the Bearcat family. With his program under a watchful eye, Coach Huggins dismissed Roy Bright from the team. The freshman who saw talk of him leaving the program just a few weeks ago, confirmed he was in possession of a firearm on campus. So just when all looked finished, another spot is open on the team and the search for a big man continues.
But after making several calls we've learned the Bearcats may be far from over in looking at players to bring in. As for who these players will be, one name you can scratch from the list is Darrell Harris. Word on the street is Harris made an unofficial visit to Cincinnati and told the coaching staff they would have his answer in a few days. After not hearing from Harris it's believed the Bearcat staff dropped him after hearing some of the same rumors being talked about in recruiting circles. It seems Harris is caught in a conflict as his current coach is looking to advance his career by taking another college job with Harris following him. If this is the case I don't blame the Bearcats from dropping Harris like a hot potato.
The other rumor running around has players looking to back-out of their current National Letter of Intents and heading towards the Bearcats. While no names have developed at this time, if this happen names should start circling soon.
While there is still plenty to talk about for 2005, it's believed the Bearcats may be looking to start listing names to their early commitment list for 2006. The one name that's being talked about at this time is Nick Aldridge. The 6-6 power forward from South Webster High School has the body Bearcat fans are used to seeing and is working on getting his name out there. It's believed if the Bearcats would offer Aldridge would give his commitment early.
Kyle Lamb of Bucknuts.com had this to say about Nick after watching him at last weekends Spiece tournament. "Nick Aldridge is a blue-collar workhorse who unfortunately, probably remains best suited as a mid-major prospect due to his size and limited athleticism. Aldridge is a true center, who at 6-foot-6, does almost all of his damage within eight feet of the basket. Aldridge does a great job on the glass and is very active going after the ball. He's strong with the ball down on the block, and finishes well. His biggest drawbacks are his limited range, and he does not come across as being comfortable with the ball facing the basket, let alone putting it on the floor. Defensively, he's very tough but he struggles against a post player with quick interior moves."
While Kyle feels Aldridge is a work in progress, he also told me Aldridge is the type of player that would fit into the Bearcats style of play.
Another big man whose name is being thrown out there is Kurtis Huelsman of St. Henry High School. The 6-7 power forward is another big body that fits the Bearcats mold. A player who is seeing his stock come down some is Canton McKinley power forward Raymar Morgan. Morgan had Ohio State hot on his trail until the state tournament when it looked as if they were going to back off. Morgan would be a great addition to the Bearcats and fit right in.
Local product Josh Chichester is a name the Bearcats would love to get. But the star from Lakota West High School has listed football as his main ticket in college. To get Chichester, Coach Huggins and Dantonio will have to agree on Josh's ability to fit into both programs.
But while the major talk is about the players coming or looking to come into the Bearcat family. The biggest question Bearcat fans have been asking is the following. How long will Coach Huggins be in charge of the Bearcats? The answer to this question will have to be filled by the University and by Coach Huggins himself.