When University of Cincinnati senior guard Armein Kirkland went down Monday night with a season ending knee injury, many Bearcat fans wondered what Head Coach Andy Kennedy would do to replace the seasoned veteran on the court.
With talk of getting help from the football team, fans looked up and down media guides to see who could play or at least compete during this time of need. With that said, several players came to mind that played some high school hoops and excelled doing it. But while many of them were smaller guys, Coach Kennedy knew he needed some players with some size who could bang in practice with Eric Hicks and Cedric McGowan along with any court time they would receive in the Big East.
After meeting with Bearcats assistant coach Mark Staten, Coach Kennedy had a couple of names and proceeded to make the calls needed to see if there was interest. One name on the list was Bearcats freshman tight end Connor Barwin. The freshman from Hazel Park, Michigan has the size at 6'4 250 lbs. +, and also some skills on the hardwood from his high school days.
In fact, Coach Dantonio spoke about being sold on Connor as an athlete after watching him play in a basketball game during the recruiting process.
So when the call came to see if there was interest, Barwin was very excited about the idea. "I dreamed of playing college basketball when I was young. But football showed me the way to a bigger college and I went with it." An excited Barwin said.
After getting the call from Coach Kennedy, Connor knew he needed to speak with his head coach about doing it. "I spoke with Coach Dantonio and he was excited and all for it. He only said one thing to me about it." "Make sure your grades stay up and represent the football program well." "That was the main thing he was worried about in me doing this."
But while Connor was excited, the main thing to keep in mind about playing hoops is being in shape. "I'm not in the same shape I was after the season. I had a minor surgery and couldn't workout for a few weeks, but I've been back at it and it's kind of like being in high school again. When you finish playing football in high school it takes about a week to get your legs and wind back."
When asked about his role, Barwin said the following. "Coach Kennedy said my role is to learn, rebound and play defense."
But Connor isn't alone in this mission, fellow football teammate Angelo Craig has been reported to also be part of the hoops team now. "Angelo is playing also. They wanted a couple of guys with some size and Angelo brings that at 6'5."
Wednesday brought the pairs first practice and when asked about how it went, Connor explained he felt he held his own against some of the top players in the country. "I held my own. It was exciting to go one-on-one against Erick Hicks and Cedric McGowan. I was very excited and the guys have accepted me and are showing me the way. The coaches have been great. Coach Blount really knows what he's doing and the other coaches have been great to me."
One person I knew had to be excited was Connors father. "My dad and family are real excited about this. Everyone is surprised but excited, but none more then my father."
Keep in mind Connor Barwin played major minutes during the football season as a freshman. When asked if he would be more excited about putting on a uniform and taking the court against Syracuse then he was taking the football field this fall, you could tell he's still a football player. "I don't know if it can be better then what it was coming out on the football field. But I've never done it, so you'll have to ask me after the game."
I would like to thank Connor for taking the time and talking about his new Bearcat journey. We'll be watching...