Wednesday was supposed to be the day that the NBA free agent market exploded. So why are all eyes on Cincinnati?
It's not (just) because of the unveiling of Under Armour as the official athletic apparel provider for the Bearcats. While new uniforms are always a big deal, especially for a school known for having some of the best in the country, the big news came in the recruiting department.
In a span of less than 24 hours, Mick Cronin and his staff added three new players. The most prominent is former NC State forward Kyle Washington, but high school recruits Jarron Cumberland and Nysier Brooks are big additions as well.
Washington was one of the more sought after players on the transfer market this offseason. He was a decent contributor for NC State during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but never had the regular playing time of a starter. Frustration with his place on a cluttered roster likely had a great deal to do with his exit.
He averaged 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season, playing 17.8 minutes each time out on the floor. Projecting that type of production over 40 minutes yields 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, as well as 2.5 blocks per game. Washington still needs polish offensively, as his effective field goal percentage (.483) was not exactly stellar. But that should fit in just fine with Cincinnati, where his length and budding defensive prowess are much more valuable.
Washington, who visited Marquette and Providence as well, will have to sit out next year per NCAA transfer rules, but that works to both his and the Bearcats' benefit. With Washington, Cronin has a built in replacement for front court guys like Octavius Ellis and Coreontae DeBerry. For Washington, not having to fight for time with entrenched players already around should yield the extended playing time he wants.
Of course, a team is not built on transfer players alone. Enter Cumberland and Brooks.
Cumberland is the bigger get, as he is a four star recruit and one from around the Cincinnati area, having played ball at Wilmington High School. The 6-foot-4 guard chose Cincinnati over Xavier (take that, Musketeers), Butler, Nevada, Florida State, Purdue and West Virginia. He also received interest from Michigan and Indiana. He could be an impact player right away or, at the very least, a back court cornerstone once room opens up as Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb move on.
Brooks, a 6-foot-10 center from New Jersey, committed last night. He will likely have a longer wait to be a piece of the rotation, but he should learn a great deal from DeBerry and Shaquille Thomas. In addition, he and Gary Clark have a chance to be something special as a front court duo.