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Checking in with Bearcats in the NBA

More like National Bearcat Association.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The city of Cincinnati has not had an NBA franchise since the Royals moved to Sacramento in 1972. So what are professional hoops fans to do when they live in the Queen City? It stands to reason that most would adopt the in-state Cleveland Cavaliers, while others might favor teams that are at least within driving distance like the Indiana Pacers.

For folks who already lend their support to the Cincinnati Bearcats, another option exists. Just scrap the whole root for one team thing and keep on cheering for the Bearcats once they graduate. That has been made easier to do this year, with a couple more former UC players joining the NBA ranks. If you’ve been too caught up in UC’s drive to bowl season, the 2018 midterm elections or something else entirely, here’s a look at how former UC players in the National Bearcat Association, er, National Basketball Association are doing.

Gary Clark

Even though he was named the American Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year last spring, Clark was not selected in the NBA Draft. That hasn’t made a difference for the 6’8” forward from Smithfield, North Carolina. After signing with the Houston Rockets over the summer, Clark had his deal converted into a two-way contract in October. He may get even more in the future because he has become a key role player for the semi-resurgent Rockets.

Clark has appeared in 18 games for the Rockets. The only other players to have more appearances are Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker. Averaging 17.5 minutes per game, Clark has brought his natural gifts for defense and rebounding to Houston’s second unit. His traditional counting number stats are meager (3.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.9 RPG) but he is third on the team in rebounds per 100 possessions (8.8), rebound percentage (10.1) and block percentage (4.3).

Having a guy who can defend multiple positions and clean the glass has helped Houston recover from a ridiculously slow start. Despite losing three-straight games, the Rockets are 9-10 overall and just a solid winning streak away from leaping ahead of some of the other teams they’re stuck with in the congested Western Conference standings. Reigning MVP James Harden and future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul will have more direct control over that, but Clark, who is sixth on the team in win shares (0.5) and working to improve his spot-up three shooting, will help fill the gaps along the way.

Jacob Evans

Things have not gone as smoothly in Golden State for the Bearcats’ first first round pick since 2005. Since Evans, who was selected 28th overall by the Warriors, is on a roster with as many stars as Golden State, it was always going to take a while to get a real shot. In the limited time he has been given (5.2 minutes per game), the 6’6” swingman has looked lost offensively, shooting 20 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three-point range. It’s difficult to get in a rhythm when your shots can be days and even weeks apart, so Evans is in no way a bust at this point. Improvement is still require, however.

While his offense has been pretty awful (71 offensive rating), Evans has at least held his own on defense. That should make Mick Cronin happy. That’s not to say Evan has been an elite defender. If he was, he could be getting more playing time with Steph Curry and Draymond Green missing time and leaving minutes on the table. Still with a 114 defensive rating, he is just a tick behind Klay Thompson (113), albeit in vastly different sample sizes.

Evans still has a lot of polishing to do on his offensive game, especially in terms of efficiency in three-point shooting. His defense also needs to be a bit better. These are all things that he can accomplish. After all, we’re talking about a 21-year-old who is a little more than a month into his NBA career.

Lance Stephenson

Stephenson is in no way a new guy in the NBA. Now in his ninth year since going one-and-done at UC, Stephenson is playing with his seventh team as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Since he has so much experience, Stephenson isn’t someone who is going to grow into his potential. Instead, we have the data to give us a good idea of what he brings to the table.

With the Lakers, the journeyman has been a solid reserve on a team being carried by LeBron James. Despite playing fewer minutes per game (16.2) than he has since his second season, Stephenson has reached back to create some relatively efficient offensive work. His effective field goal percentage (.510) is currently its highest since 2016 and is a reason he has an offensive rating above 100 for the first time since that season. As for the defensive side, Stephenson has always been a good player, and that’s perhaps the best part of his game right now, as he has 0.4 defensive win shares and a 108 defensive rating, which makes him one of Luke Walton’s best defensive options.

Sean Kilpatrick

Kilpatrick is not currently on an NBA roster after being released by the Chicago Bulls over the summer. Despite that, it would be folly to believe his NBA career is over. The 6’6” former All-American has ground his way to six NBA stops since 2014. At just 28 years old and with a career scoring average of 10.3 points per game scoring, Kilpatrick could help a team in need of some quick scoring off the bench. Here’s hoping he gets that chance.

All statistics were prior to tip-off of games on Nov. 28.