Keeping his options open. That's how Bearcats' coach Mick Cronin would describe the power forward position on the 2013-14 men's basketball team. Or, at least, that's how I imagine him describing this position group.
Titus Rubles shared time at the 4-spot last year with the always energetic Justin Jackson, often swapping in-and-out of the starting lineup between each other. Both showed flashes of talent, and both players return this fall for their senior years. Which means this power forward breakdown is a no brainer, right?
Not so fast, my friend...
And, yeah, I said that in my best Lee Corso voice. Deal with it.
Don't get me wrong; I think both will see a lot of time at the 4 this year, but I actually think you'll see Mr. Mean Face slide over and gobble up minutes at the center position too. Coach Cronin didn't exactly allude to this during his media availability last week; it's just a gut feeling I have. Reports are that Jackson has put on a much-needed 30 pounds, making him a stronger presence in the paint. Cronin even went so far as to compare Jumping Jack to one of my all-time favorite Bearcats:
"Justin's development, I think, will surprise a lot of people... His play more resembles Eric Hicks than Justin Jackson of the last 3 years." - Mick Cronin, 10/10/13
Huh? You mean the baby-eatin', mean-muggin', body-bruisin' Eric Hicks? The guy that single-handedly willed Bearcat teams to victory in the 2000's? If Jackson's play this year resembles anything close to Eric Hicks, his Mean Face nickname will be well-earned.
Also, if reports of Rubles improved ball-handling capabilities are true (so much so that Mick talked about him occasionally bringing the ball up the floor), you might even see Rubles at the 3 with Jackson at the 4 and David Nyarsuk at the 5 (or something like that). A lineup like that would give the Bearcats quite the rebounding advantage against the toughest of foes.
Add in the fact that highly-touted freshman Jermaine Lawrence has made it to campus - and looks good in pre-season workouts - and it's easy to see why Mick Cronin has all kinds of flexibility with the power forward position.
Here's what I see when I rub my crystal ball:
- Titus Rubles gets plenty of playing time at the 4 early on.
- Justin Jackson splits time between the 4 and 5 early on.
- Jermaine Lawrence doesn't start right away, but eventually gets playing time at the 4.
And if Jamaree Strickland qualifies, I can even see him pulling time as a power forward during the early season cupcake games. I guess what I'm trying to say is - I don't have a freaking clue as to what Cronin will really do this year, but there are certainly options available. It'll be interesting to watch this position group shake out. What are your thoughts on the Bearcats' 4-spot?