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Bearcat Retrospective: Yancy Gates

One of the things that I personally struggle with as I follow sports is characterizations of players. The most obvious menifestation of this is that I can't just let a player be. As sports fan I am constantly facing the urge and the desire to create a frame of reference for such and such a player. More often then not those comparisons turn out to be shit. It is all about the selective perceptions that we all have as fans. We have these players that are lionized and legendary in their time. But we can never let those players simply exist in the time frame that they occupied. We always drag them out and bestow their name on the next wave of players and then the one after that. In the minds eye of the fans we believe that in doing so that player has been uplifted, or complimented. In truth the burden that anointing someone the next someone else is larger, often much larger, then the lift from the initial compliment provides. Usually that burden is carried in silence. Rarely do the fans who do the anointing become aware of the weight of expectations that they create.

How does this relate to Yancy Gates? This year was the first time that Gates let it be known that the weight of expectations placed on him was a problem. If not a problem in that is was something that was pressing and concerning and all of that. Just that he was aware of the expectations, and equally aware that he was not meeting them. When Gates committed to UC I had visions of Danny Fortson dunking in my head. There was seldom a fan that I talked to who didn't share something bordering on that opinion. So instantly, before taking a shot, or even stepping onto a college floor Gates was labeled as the next Danny Fortson, the next two time All American Power Forward. That causes some problems.

Those are the things that Gates has had to deal with for most of his career as a Bearcat. Gates chose to come to UC, he knew the comparisons that he was likely to engender, he knew the pressure that was going to come with the territory and Gates has by and large handled it well. In his three years at UC Gates has only had one really major issue, his suspension last year. The reason that I think any breakdown of Gates's 2010-11 season has to start there. I don't know exactly why Gates had, or did not have, (depending on who you ask) his blow up with an assistant coach. But the pressure he was under last year had to be a factor. After all this was Yancy's team, after a couple of years lurking in the shadows he was now the front man. He was active, engaged, interested. The front man for a resurgent bunch of Bearcats, and then the front man for a struggling bunch of Bearcats and then he snapped. He was suspended and left at home for the Pitt game, booed at the end of a tough St. John's home loss. The season appeared to be spiraling out of control. I, as ever, kept my cool and penned a lovely little piece about how Yancy Gates was dead. Reading that again a couple of sentences jumped out at me.

I will try to remember the excitement, anticipation and he occasional moments of excellence. And truth be told I will defiantly remember those things about him, if only to ram home the fact that Yancy Gates is the most frustrating Bearcat Basketball player ever.

In retrospect my frustrations with Yancy Gates aren't even about him. The reason that I had so much frustration with Yancy is that I misjudged him. Gates is the same player now that he was in high school. The skill set hasn't changed from high school. But I expected Fortson, not Yancy Gates. That is my problem.

The funny thing is that after giving up on Gates I was able to see him as he was, not as I believed him to be. What's more the player that emerged from that low ebb didn't resemble the player before it.

Statistically Speaking

This was Yancy Gates best season to date. The numbers didn't exactly jump up or anything, but I feel comfortable in saying that Yancy concluded his best season as a Bearcat. There could be an argument made that his numbers had to go up with the departure of Lance Stephenson and Deanta Vaughn. But I don't really buy it. But before the advanced metrics lets hit the basics. Note all stats per game.

Season Points FG% Rebounds Blocks Assists Steals Minutes
2010-11 11.9 51 6.9 1.3 1.2 .8 27.8
Fr. So. Average 10.5 50 6 .95 .65 .55 24.4

Like I said not a huge difference on paper. But Gates was a much more effective player this year compared to the previous two. Most of it is down to effort in my estimation. For the most part Gates effort was good throughout the year. He did have a little strop at the midway point of the Big East season, be he came back strong and was a force in the interior of the offense, and more importantly on the defensive end as well. He will never be a great defender, but when he shows a little willing on that end of the court it provides a big lift and a big presence that is often missing in the Big East. While we have a ton of tools to dissect the offensive impact of players, there aren't as many to deal with defense. There are steals, blocks and that's about it. Still, these lovely little graphs should show you the grow Yancy has made as a defender.

Now, on with the advanced metrics.

Season Minute % Offensive Rating Usage Rate Effective FG% True Shooting% Free Throw Rate
2010-11 67.1 109.4 22.7 51.7 53.2 41.9
Fr. So. Average 60.1 105.2 22.85 50.05 51.45 28.65

The key here is efficiency. Yancy was used on just 22.7 of the offensive possessions when he was on the floor. That is the second lowest of his career as a Bearcat. And yet his scoring, rebounding, passing all went up. So he did more with fewer possessions. But to me the most impressive thing is the jump in Free Throw rate from his first two seasons to his Junior year. His 41.9 lead the team, I find his growth in that department to be remarkable for a guy who has been dogged by questions regarding his effort.

The Final Word

In the end I tend to view the season Yancy Gates had as a three act play. The first act was very strong highlighted by his dominating performance in the Crosstown Blowout. The second one dragged quite a bit and was just generally not fun. The third act was a redemption story and everyone left happy, more or less, and entertained, if a little bit worried about a potential reprise of that troubling middle act. Overall I would give Yancy a B for this season. Even though I have put to bed any notions of him ever being a Bulldog in the paint. The current version of Yancy Gates can still be a little bit better.

What's your take? Give your grade in the poll and leave your comments on Yancy Gates below