Recruiting is always important but it has been even more imperative this year for the Cincinnati Bearcats. For the last couple months, John Brannen and his staff have been attempting to rebuild the team following the departure of head coach Mick Cronin as well as several notable players such as Nysier Brooks, Logan Johnson, Rashawn Fredericks and Eliel Nsoseme. As the spring transformed into summer, the Bearcats have added a great deal of new talent but the program’s biggest addition may have just made his commitment, as four-star shooting guard Zach Harvey announced his intention to play for the Bearcats yesterday.
Thank you God for putting me In this position. Without my Dad, family, friends and coaches none of this would be possible. I am so very grateful for everyone that has supported me and stuck with me since Day 1. This upcoming season I will be a Cincinnati Bearcat ❤️ pic.twitter.com/dSe6IUVsPy— Zach Harvey (@zachxharvey) June 27, 2019
For those of you who don’t already know, Harvey is a top 100 recruit for the 2019 class and considered the No. 4 shooting guard in the country and the No. 6 overall prospect from his home state of Kansas, according to 247 Sports. At 6’5”, he has the length to play multiple positions and he will really help Brannen fully rebuild the Bearcats’ backcourt.
With his ranking among 2019 recruits, Harvey is easily the top addition for a 2019 class that already had plenty going for it already. Both Jeremiah Davenport and Mika Adams-Woods are going to be freshmen who can help in the backcourt right away and Northern Kentucky transfer Chris Vogt will eventually reinforce the interior after he sits out a year. Don’t forget about graduate transfers Jaevin Cumberland, Chris McNeal and Jaume Sorolla either, as all three will have a chance to play meaningful minutes next winter. With Harvey in the mix, the Bearcats now have the No. 42 recruiting class in the entire country and the fourth-best in the American Athletic Conference, according to 247 Sports.
Although Cumberland, McNeal and Sorolla all have experience playing at the collegiate level, it seems likely that Harvey will also be given a chance to earn a large chunk of playing time right away. That brings us to a pretty important point. Harvey’s commitment should close the book on roster shuffling for the 2019 Bearcats and now Brannen will have to decide how to allocate playing time.
Obviously defending American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland will maintain a prominent role as will returning starters Trevon Scott and Keith Williams, but from there, questions begin to crop up. Among returning players, Trevor Moore is an upperclassmen with plenty of experience of his own and Mamoudou Diarra is poised to take a major step forward in responsibility in the paint. Plus, this team still has to see what Prince Gillam Toyambi can bring to the table. As for new additions, Jaevin Cumberland, McNeal and Sorolla likely joined the Bearcats with the expectation that they will play, especially Cumberland. That doesn’t leave as much room even for a player as lauded as Harvey.
In recent years, the Bearcats have incorporated such four-star talents into their rotation very early on. Williams played 326 minutes as a freshmen during the 2017-18 season, Jarron Cumberland was essentially the sixth man for the 2016-17 season and both Jacob Evans and Gary Clark went from four-star recruiting trajectories to prominent fixtures on the roster right away. Of course, all four of those players were recruited while Cronin was still the head coach and we don’t have as much of an indication of how Brannen will utilize new players. However, since he has been able to build a large part of the roster rather than inherent one entirely, he should be comfortable playing most of the guys he has added early on.
No matter what Brannen chooses to do with his rotations for the 2019-20 season, the Bearcats should find success, as they have a great deal of talent to lean on, with Harvey’s commitment adding to that collection.
The effects of Harvey’s commitment don’t stop there, however. In fact, its what he will do for the program after the 2019-20 season that might be more important. The Bearcats were always going to be competitive next season. That was true the second Jarron Cumberland decided to stick around for his senior season and as more players were added around him and guys like Scott, Williams, Moore and Diarra bought into the new system, the makings of another championship caliber team seemed to be coming together. Harvey should enhance the already talented roster and its chances at competing for another AAC title and more.
The roster will look even more transformed after next season, with a number of players set to move on, including both Cumberlands, McNeal and Scott. Even if Harvey isn’t given more than a little playing time as a freshman, the Bearcats will need him to step up right away as a sophomore. The same goes for Adams-Woods and Davenport. That reality could push Brannen to test the three freshmen guards right away, especially as his philosophy seems to center around guard play. At least that’s how it seems based on the backcourt focus he has exhibited in recruiting. That focus has carried over to the 2020 class, with three-star point guard Mike Saunders the only committed player to this point. The 2020 season will also be when Vogt will be eligible to play, so its not all about the backcourt, but the fact remains that the Bearcats will be rolling with another major roster change for 2020.
It won’t all be on the new guys, of course. Williams and Moore will both be seniors and if Toyambi impresses, he will have a role as well. However, that would give the program only a few remaining players from the squad that won back-to-back AAC tourney titles the last two years. That means the 2020 team will be more reliant on new players than ever before.
Obviously, Harvey will have the opportunity to make the Bearcats better in the short term. That is just the reality with a recruit of his talent. However, his role can go beyond that. He and the rest of the 2019 class can help bridge the gap between an experienced team with experience and lofty NCAA Tournament ambitions and the next great Bearcats team in 2020-21 and the years to follow.