After being forced to sit and watch his future UC teammates battle some of the top summertime competition in the region as part of the Slats team of the Deveroes Summer League, soon-to-be Bearcat center Abdul Herrera has returned to action. The 6-10 product out of Panama, who made his way to UC via Miami (FL), was hampered by a chronic injury in his lower back that he has had to endure for years.
"It is good to be back out there with my teammates," said Herrera. "I am getting treatment and therapy everyday and I am feeling a lot better. I wasn‘t really able to workout because of my injury, so I‘ve got a lot of work to do, but I just have to go out there every day and do my best."
While Abdul may express joy that he is able to get back on the floor and help his Slats/UC teammates, there has been little enthusiasm about the way he has played thus far this summer.
"I am really out of shape and I have a lot to learn. Not being able to play with my teammates has hurt me a lot. I am not where I need to be, I've never played like this before."
Herrera, who has played sparingly over the past few outings, only managed to get on the floor for a few minutes during Sunday's contest not because of injury, but simply because he does not feel that he is ready to garner considerable playing time as of yet.
"I'll get on the floor when I deserve to play," said Herrera, who has resembled a human fouling machine when he has had the opportunity to play. "I need to earn minutes by working out well and playing well in practice. Right now, I haven't done either so I don't deserve to be on the floor."
Falling out of my personal favor as a potential impact player for the Bearcats next season due to poor rebounding and defensive know-how, Herrera has continuously struggled at times to box out and get in the right position to rebound. Also, Herrera has shown a "block everything" mentality that has led to many unnecessary fouls when raising his long arms in his marks face would have sufficed.
Herrera's teammates have been behind the youngster since the beginning and are acting as much like mentors and coaches as teammates and classmates.
"They've really helped me a lot. They are trying to teach me on the floor and I want to learn everything I can from them. I just want to be a good player and they want to help me become the player I should be."
Herrera has had Slats teammates James White (UC) and Chris Alvarez (Dayton) to take him under their wings and teach the youngster the proper defensive and rebounding techniques, while Deveroes competitors and UC teammates Eric Hicks and Armein Kirkland have each lent Herrera a helping hand while on the bench.
"I just told him to keep playing hard and to grab rebounds -that's all," said Kirkland. "He'll get better, he just needs time."
While Herrera will technically have the next four to five years to learn and embrace his craft, you can already see his teammates, who continually try to help wean him into the hectic world of D-I basketball, get frustrated by his seemingly lackadaisical play that has been spurred on by his relative "green" basketball IQ and under-whelming playing résumé.
At one occasion Chadd Moore, the former Bearcat who returned to the hardwood alongside his UC brethren for the DSL season after being forced to "retire" prematurely due to a chronic back ailment, was seen verbally reprimanding Herrera for poor play, leading to a quick foul on the Bearcat big man.
"Don't just put your [expletive] hands up, box out!" was what the fans packed inside the Woodward High School gymnasium heard echo off the walls of the tiny venue. Almost appropriate, Moore's echoed statement fairly well symbolizes the continued frustration of Herrera's Bearcat teammates and fans have experienced because of the slow start to his UC playing career.
With that being said, the determined Herrera knows that with proper time in the gym and on the court he will soon warrant him playing the minutes many have wanted to force feed him from the start.
"I want to play well and help my teammates. I just need to workout and get in shape and I will be fine," said the flabby Herrera who still shows little lift off the ground. "I want to be a great player at Cincinnati and I will do what it takes to become one."