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Returning Player Refresher: Coreontae DeBerry

The man with the massive hands isn't much of an offensive threat, but he can be a real difference maker on defense with his ability to protect the rim.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If you didn't already know, Coreontae DeBerry has big hands. Like, really, really, really, really big hands. Hands so big, they could squash a regulation football filled with cement like a grape. DeBerry is also a very large man, standing 6-foot-9 and weighing in at 265 pounds. So, what does he bring to the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball squad? You guessed it, size.

DeBerry played in his first season with the Bearcats last year, following a year in which he played in limited minutes at Mott College in Michigan and Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. His stat line with Hutchison was solid, if not spectacular (11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game), until you look at his playing time. He played an average of 5.7 minutes per game at the junior college level. That's right: 5.7. That means he averaged more than a rebound and nearly two points per minute. While I can't rightly determine why he was used so sparingly, such a dominating pace made him an attractive asset at the Division I level.

Mick Cronin did not push DeBerry too hard in his first season. The forward didn't play more than 10 minutes in a game until December, but he started to become a bit more of a regular contributor after the new year. His biggest game of the season came against Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, when he scored a season-high 13 points across 26 minutes, also a season-best.

The really exciting part of DeBerry's game is not on offense. There are plenty of other players on the roster for such minor details. DeBerry is most important because of his ability to clog the paint, push around smaller post players and swat unsuspecting floaters and layups into the stratosphere. DeBerry averaged a block a game despite playing just over 10 minutes in each contest. He also had at least two blocks in nine games. In the final five games of the season, he rejected seven shot attempts, including two apiece against Purdue and Kentucky. While his limited sample size compared to some other players needs to be kept in mind, DeBerry posted the third-best defensive rating on the team (92.3). Being a top defender on a defense-first team is nothing to scoff at, even if it comes in limited bursts.

DeBerry also does good work on the glass. He may have only averaged 2.1 rebounds per game, but that doesn't tell the whole story. If you expand his efforts out over 40 minutes, that number is boosted to eight boards a game. He trailed only Gary Clark and Octavius Ellis in total rebound percentage (12.5). And, in Cincinnati's showdown with Kentucky, a team stuffed with frontcourt behemoths, DeBerry tied for a personal-best with six rebounds.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what DeBerry can do for Cincinnati. His immense build makes him an important piece, especially against teams with challenging frontcourts. His skill set is still limited, and the offense will never run through him, but as long as he keeps ripping down boards and blocking shots, he'll have a role. Based on the success he had with heavier responsibilities in the NCAA Tournament, I think that role will expand.