Whether you are ready to face it or not, with the NBA Finals coming to a close last night, we are set to embark on a long walk through a desert. Not one filled with billions of grains of blisteringly hot sand, instead, we are entering the official off-season of basketball. While the college game has been on hold since April, the professional ranks still allowed for plenty of hardwood action. There is still the NBA Draft next week, but we must now find drips and drabs of basketball information and entertainment wherever we can find them.
Well, consider this draft series an oasis. If you missed parts one and two, go check them out post haste. SPOILERS: Oscar Robertson was already taken. I'll wait here for those who are behind.
(Taps fingers on desk)
(Hums 'Steal My Girl')
(Pretends to be humming something else)
(Looks at watch)
Great, you're back. Now that we've put the first eight picks in the books, let's get on to picks 9-12. With the ninth pick in the totally fictitious Cincinnati Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select...
9. Jack Twyman
Twyman's No. 27 jersey is hanging from the rafters along with Robertson's No. 12 and Kenyon Martin's No. 4. Those three are the only players to have their numbers retired at UC. That should tell you just how good Twyman was when he was breaking ankles back in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, unlike Robertson and Martin, Twyman did not play for the same type of legendary squads. The Bearcats went 21-8 in his senior season, but had just 11 wins in each of the three campaigns leading up to that. Twyman had to fight his way onto the roster, as he only played in 16 games as a freshman, averaging 4.2 points a contest. However, by the time he was ready to graduate there was no player more important on the floor. Twyman averaged 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds per game as a senior and, like Robertson, he did it before the 3-point line was even a thought in anyone's mind. He is still the 10th-best scorer in Cincinnati history and trails only Robertson in career rebounds with 1,242.
Aside from the accolades he earned at UC and the success he had during an 11-year professional career, Twyman's most memorable achievement may have come off the court, when he became the legal guardian of teammate Maurice Stokes, who suffered from paralysis due to a head injury. It may not make him a better basketball player, but Twyman would be a top draft pick as either a baller or humanitarian.
Onto the 10th pick in the draft, which belongs to the Miami Heat.
10. Jim Ard
When Cincinnati basketball historians (a very select group of people to be sure) think of 1970, the first player that comes to mind is Ard. The 6-foot-8 forward/center was a consistent performer for the Bearcats, but in 1970, his senior year, he reached an entirely new stratosphere. He led Cincinnati in scoring (19.2 ppg) while ripping down 411 rebounds, which came out to 15.2 per game. Don Hess and Don Ogletree were two of his teammates that season and the second and third best rebounders on the squad, yet they had fewer rebounds combined than Ard had by himself.
Cincinnati has been lucky enough to have some excellent glass cleaners and Ard is obviously one of them. He had 941 career rebounds in 76 total games. He also is 26th all-time in scoring at Cincinnati (1,256) and was a ferocious defender around the rim, blocking 10 shots in one game, which is still a record he shares to this day. Like Twyman, Ard didn't enjoy tons of team success, although the Bearcats had at least 17 wins in his three seasons as a regular. Missing the NCAA Tournament all three seasons still hurts, even if the tourney was a smaller event at that point. Still, his incredible skills in and around the paint would make for the type of interior force the Heat haven't had since Chris Bosh decided to make more shots on the perimeter.
Time for pick No. 11, which will be made by the Indiana Pacers. And the envelope reads...
11. Lloyd Batts
Batts can commiserate with both Ard and Twyman, as his stellar Cincinnati career did not feature a NCAA Tournament berth either. Batts missed out on playing with Ard by two seasons, as he didn't start scoring at will for the Bearcats until the 1971-72 season. Once he go going, however, he was impossible to stop. Batts led the Bearcats in scoring as a sophomore (18.87 ppg), a junior (20.1 ppg) and a senior (21.3). And again, he did it without the aid of a 3-point line. A consistently lethal scoring threat from the wing, Batts was held out of double figures only four times in 79 games as a Bearcat, putting up at least 20 points 48 times along the way. He also led the Bearcats in assists as a sophomore (60) and a senior (48). In 1973 he was named a third-team All-American by Basketball Weekly and he graduated to the AP All-American team in his final season. He would make a lot of sense in Indiana, which desperately needs scoring threats.
Despite all the scoring Batts provided for Cincinnati, he never figured out how to do it at the next level, playing one season in the ABA for the Virginia Squires, a season with the West Virginia Wheels of the AABA and then giving it a shot overseas.
And now for the 12th pick. The Utah Jazz will take...
12. Pat Cummings
I swear these picks were not made in chronological order on purpose. It's just how things shook out. After Ard and Batts impressed individually, Cincinnati fans were thirsty for some more national publicity. The kind they had grown accustomed to in the 1960s. After losing in the regional semifinals in 1966, the Bearcats went eight years without making it to the NCAA Tournament. Can Pat Cummings take all the credit for ending that drought in 1975? Absolutely not. But, he can certainly take some of it and he can also lay claim to being one of the best to wear Cincinnati across his chest.
The 6-foot-9 forward had all the touch and moves you could dream of on the interior. Think of him as a precursor to Kevin McHale. He used his stuffed toolbox to put up 24.5 points per game as a senior in 1979, the year he was named Metro Conference Player of the Year. Unfortunately, although Cummings tasted the national spotlight early on, his Bearcats went out with a whimper, as they missed out on the NCAA Tournament during his best individual season. Still, a big scorer and an efficient one at that, ranking second in career field goal percentage at Cincinnati (.581), Cummings would be an obvious prospect for the Jazz and any other NBA team, including the four he played for from 1979-1990.
This week's picks came from deep in the annals of Bearcats history, showing just how deep the all-time Cincinnati roster is. Tune in next week for picks 13-16.