It has been a long and winding journey. The Cincinnati Draft started two months and one day ago as an exercise in exploiting the love of drafts and rankings held by the majority of basketball and sports fans in general. Now it comes to its inevitable and Bearcat-filled conclusion. There have been 28 former Cincinnati greats taken off the board and there are just two spots left to fill. Plus, a few honorable mentions. With a program so rich in history and talent as Cincinnati, cutting a list down to 30 without a few notable omissions would be impossible. UC isn't Xavier after all. Boom. Roasted.
Now let's dispense with the trash talk and get back to the draft. With the 29th pick in the often (not once) imitated but never duplicated Cincinnati Draft, the Brooklyn Nets select...
29. Eric Hicks
Best remembered for his signature headband and All-Big East flavor, Hicks went from defensive stopper to all-around contributor. He averaged at least a block per game in each of his four seasons, culminating in the 2005-06 season when he swatted 3.3 shots a contest. During that season he also set career-highs in scoring (15 ppg) and rebounds (9.7 rpg), while earning Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors and a spot on the All-Big East first-team. What was so incredible about Hicks' production was how he put up the same type of numbers one might expect of a 7-footer, while standing at just 6-foot-6.
Unfortunately, Hicks also lived through the breakup between Bog Huggins and Cincinnati, playing his final year out under the immortal Andy Kennedy. That season, although Hicks' best, ended a 14-year streak in the NCAA Tournament for the Bearcats.
Finally, with the last pick in the Cincinnati Draft, the Golden State Warriors select...
30. Roger McClendon
There are some who may cry foul that McClendon fell so low. Feel free to gather your pitchforks and storm the Down the Drive castle at any point. The two-time All-Metro Conference selection is sixth on the all-time scoring list (1,789) at Cincinnati, following a career in which he scored in double figures four separate times. His best campaign was his junior season, which was the year the 3-point line was introduced. He took advantage of the new scoring mechanism with gusto, sinking 80 triples en route to a 19.9 points per game season. He took a step back the next season, but still scored a healthy 14.5 points per contest, although he recorded the lowest shooting percentage of his career (.433). He also played for some rather dismal teams, as the Bearcats failed to make the NCAA Tournament or post more than 17 wins during McClendon's tenure. That's the main reason he fell in this draft.
Still, there were obviously plenty of bright spots in his career, like when he scored a personal-best 35 points in leading the Bearcats back from a 17-point deficit to knock off eventual national champion Louisville in 1986.
That wraps up the Cincinnati Draft, but let's take a look at a few players who just missed the cut.
HM: Bobby Brannen
A homegrown kid, Brannen was a key cog of the Cincinnati teams that dominated in the mid-90s. He had some excellent company, playing with Melvin Levett, Ruben Patterson, Danny Fortson and even a young Kenyon Martin. Brannen averaged 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a senior, but he just missed out on making the cut because he was often overshadowed by the more outstanding players around him.
HM: Lance Stephenson
Stephenson has made a bigger name for himself since leaving Cincinnati. That's not to say he didn't make an impact in a Bearcat uniform. Actually, Stephenson's entire saga to get to Cincinnati is just as confusing as his attempts to bait LeBron James into...I'm not really sure what the blowing in the ear thing was supposed to do. He pushed back his announcement more than once, constantly keeping the teams he claimed to be finalists for his services such as Kansas, St. John's and Maryland, on edge. After missing the signing period due to legal issues, he finally signed on to play at Cincinnati. Stephenson played for one year (12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.5 apg) and then jetted off to the NBA, where he has been making a healthy living to this day.
That officially puts the Cincinnati Draft in the books. Now how many more days are there until college basketball season?