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Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball: Taking Stock of the Incoming Freshman

Bearcats reload after losing Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kansas State vs Cincinnati Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mick Cronin’s last two recruiting classes have far exceeded expectations. Over the past two seasons he’s brought in Jacob Evans, Justin Jenifer, Tre Scott, Jarron Cumberland and Nysier Brooks. Evans and Cumberland have become prolific, dynamic scorers, Brooks and Scott have proven to be perfect fits for Cronin’s system as excellent defenders and rebounders, and Jenifer is in position to battle for the starting point guard spot in the upcoming season. It’s impossible to argue with any of those recruits; they’ve all already been successful and are likely to only improve over the remainder of their college careers.

The Cincinnati Bearcats are a deep, talented, experienced team and will enter the upcoming season as the likely favorites in the American Athletic Conference. With that in mind, Cronin’s 2017 recruiting class appears built more for 2018 and beyond. Mamoudou Diarra and Eliel Nsoseme are tall, lanky projects that will need to bulk up considerably before they can make a consistent impact. That said, there are two players from the class have the talent to contribute in the same way Jarron Cumberland did in the previous season.

Let’s take a look at each recruit:

Keith Willliams - Four Stars

Williams is a 6’5” shooting guard from Brooklyn, and is the most likely player from this class to make an immediate impact. He averaged 22.6 points per game and added 8.8 rebounds per game in his senior season with Bishop Loughlin. He’s a wing player that has the ability to create his own shot, and also knock down threes. Williams hit 35 percent of his three point attempts last season, while making 47 percent from the field. He’ll initially backup Evans and/or Cumberland, but I expect him to become a key rotation player by the end of the season. He has the athleticism to become an elite defender, so Cronin should attempt to mold him into what everyone wanted Kevin Johnson to eventually become.

Trevor Moore - Three Stars

Moore is a 6’5” small forward from Texas. He just finished a season at South Kent Prep School in Connecticut where he was routinely the third or fourth scoring option on the team. Moore is a lights-out shooter, but the rest of his game is very raw. The Bearcats have plenty of options at the wing positions, so they have the luxury of allowing Moore time to develop into a more complete player. I expect him to play about as much as Justin Jenifer did last season, contributing around five to 10 minutes per game depending on the opponent.

Mamoudou Diarra - Three Stars

Diarra committed to the Bearcats after de-committing from Washington following the Huskies dismissal of head coach Lorenzo Romar. He’s a 6’9” forward from St. Louis, but at 205 pounds is severely undersized. He’ll need to add a minimum of 20 pounds to withstand the physicality of the American Athletic Conference. Diarra is unlikely to see much playing time next season. The Bearcats are loaded in the frontcourt, with limited minutes remaining for Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks, nevermind a raw, lean freshman. He has the potential to develop into a lanky, defensive specialist, but is unlikely to make an impact in 2017-18.

Eliel Nsoseme - Three Stars

Nsoseme has a very similar body type to Diarra. He’s listed at 6’9” and just 195 pounds, so he’ll also need to bulk up significantly. He was recently voted the third best prospect in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association. Nsoseme scored 27 points and added 13 rebounds and 5 blocks, earning MVP honors at the Pinky Lewis Invitational back in November. While Diarra is more likely to develop into an athletic four, Nsoseme’s future is probably at the five, making it even more imperative that he gets bigger and stronger. He’ll have plenty of time to develop while practicing against the likes of Gary Clark, Kyle Washington Scott and Brooks.