The personnel shuffling for the Cincinnati Bearcats has continued. After rumors swirled all week, reports have surfaced that Nysier Brooks will test the transfer market and potentially leave the program.
NEWS: Cincinnati’s Nysier Brooks is entering the transfer portal, a source told @TheAthleticCIN | @TheAthleticCBB.— Justin Williams (@Williams_Justin) April 19, 2019
He’s weighing his options & could choose to stay at UC. The 6-foot-11 center will be a senior next season. Not available for a grad transfer. #Bearcats
As the tweet above indicates, this isn’t necessarily the end for Brooks’ UC career but, to paraphrase the Batfleck, even if there is a one percent chance that Brooks will leave, the Bearcats need to be ready. As we outlined a bit when discussing Rashawn Fredericks’ decision to transfer, they probably will be, but Brooks held a much different role than Fredericks ever did. The 6’11” center from Philadelphia was promoted to a starting job this past season and he used the new opportunity to drastically improve his game. Not only did he continue to provide exceptional defense and work on the glass, but he also found time to add more offensive efficiency to his repertoire, setting career-highs in points (8.1 per game) and true shooting percentage (56.8).
Obviously that offensive progression still falls behind Brooks’ most critical production, which came on the defensive end of the floor. The Bearcats had many great defenders last season but Brooks was, if you’ll pardon the pun, often at the center of it all. He led all starters in defensive rating (94.6) and was the best shot blocker on the roster, with a block rate of 8.4 percent. Having such an imposing figure guarding the paint made it difficult for opponents to get easy looks and was a huge reason why the Bearcats were a top 20 team in block rate overall.
In addition, Brooks was a skilled contributor on the glass, especially on the offensive side of the floor, leading the Bearcats with a 13.8 offensive rebound percentage. Once again, his efforts carried over to the entire team, as he powered the Bearcats to the seventh-best mark in the country in offensive rebound rate.
Replacing a player like that will be difficult. Unlike with Fredericks, the Bearcats do not have rising prospects like LaQuill Hardnett and Prince Gillam Toyambi who can just be plugged in to the new spot on the roster. However, they do have three players who are very well equipped to at least hold things together in the froncourt in Trevon Scott, Eliel Nsoseme and Mamoudou Diarra.
Scott is already a starter and if his frontcourt partner leaves, he could be asked to do even more. That is tough to imagine however. Scott played the second-most minutes on the roster last year and led the team in defensive win shares (2.0). Even if he takes another step forward next winter, he will need help to maintain the level of frontcourt efficiency that the Bearcats became accustomed to with both he and Brooks in the painted area.
I guess its a good thing Nsoseme has already proven himself to be an incredible force on the boards and defense. After all, it was Nsoseme and not Brooks who led the team in total rebound rate (17.4 percent) last season. He was also the only player besides Brooks to have an offensive rebound rate in the double digits (10.4 percent) and of his 0.9 win shares, 0.8 came on defense. Nsoseme still needs to drastically improve his offensive game, but if he gets more minutes in Brooks’ absence, he will be able to fill in the gaps on defense and the glass right away.
As for Diarra, the 6’9’ sophomore has a bit more to prove. Unlike Nsoseme, who played in 33 games last season, Diarra was used more sparingly and logged 20 appearances. However, in his more brief playing time, he exhibited superior all-around production, posting a player efficiency rating of 19.4 compared with Nsoseme’s 10.6. His total rebound rate was nearly identical to Brooks’ and he ranked second on the roster in block percentage (7.7). His true shooting percentage (46.2) implies that he still has work to do as a scorer, but he may be better suited to make a bigger jump than Nsoseme.
Regardless of who gets the greatest boost in opportunity in the wake of Brooks’ departure, its clear that both Nsoseme and Diarra will and should be a part of the Bearcats’ contingency plans. Those plans could also feature more responsibilities for Scott and, if new head coach Johan Brannen wants to go in a totally different direction, it could lead to experiments with smaller lineups and increased playing time for guys like Trevor Moore.
To this point, the Bearcats have had quick answers for every change in personnel the last couple of weeks. They replaced Mick Cronin with Brannen in a matter of days and we already have a good idea of how they’ll replace Fredericks. Making up for the potential loss of a starter will have its own degree of difficulty but the Bearcats should be able to handle this change as well.