After back-to-back 26 win seasons, an appearance in the Big East Tournament final, and a trip to the Sweet 16, is recruiting getting easier for UC head coach Mick Cronin?
“It never gets easier to recruit,” said Cronin. “You do become more popular the more you win and you get on TV more. So I have better name recognition because that’s the guy they see on TV and our program is winning. It definitely has an effect, but at the same time, it’s still hard. Recruiting is the toughest thing we do. It’s the hardest part of the job for any coach – there’s no question about it.”
Today the hard work paid off for Coach Cronin and his staff as three high school standouts faxed in letters of intent to the University of Cincinnati on the first day of the early signing period.
Troy Caupain, a 6’3″ guard from Cosby High School in Midlothian, VA verbally committed to UC in June after averaging 26 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 8 assists as a junior last year.
“Troy is a huge recruit for us,” said Cronin. “He’s a 6’3″ point guard and he’s 16-year-old on signing day. He’s going to turn 17 in a couple of weeks. He’s got something that you can’t teach – the gift of vision. He finds the open man and has great leadership skill. He’s a true quarterback and it’s natural for him to talk on the floor – I won’t have to coach that with him. And he can beat his man. More importantly, when he beats his man off of the dribble, he finds the open man and he’s a willing passer. He’s a big-time recruit for us.”
This year’s class also includes a local recruit in Summit Country Day’s Kevin Johnson.
“I usually don’t mention that he’s local because I don’t want people to think that we recruited Kevin Johnson only because he is from Cincinnati,” said Cronin. “That would be patently false. We’ve passed on some guys that are from Cincinnati because maybe they weren’t the right fit for us and Kevin is the right fit. He grew up within miles of our campus, he is a great kid, and we are fortunate to have him.”
Johnson is a 6’1″ guard who averaged 14.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last year in helping the Silver Knights capture the Division III state title.
“He’s a guard that can do everything,” said Cronin. “He can score, he can handle the ball, and he can pass. He’s also a winner which goes a long way with me as he led his team to the state championship. And he’s very unselfish – he could shoot a lot more for Summit Country Day than he did last year, but he played within their system and their team was extremely well-coached. And he’s got great upside. Kevin is a 17-year-old senior and won’t turn 18 until next summer. He’s a long guard and can do a lot of things.”
Cincinnati added a post player in Jamaree Strickland who hails from Oakland, California.
“Even though he’s from California, he grew up a Bearcat fan,” said Cronin. “That worked in our favor. We didn’t know that until we contacted him and his father couldn’t have been more excited. You would have thought we were the hometown school.”
Strickland was one of the top-rated big men in California when he suffered a knee injury in 10th grade that required surgery and wiped out his junior year. A second surgical procedure caused him to miss all but two games of his senior year.
But Jamaree is no longer wearing a knee brace and is spending this season playing for Queen City Prep in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Jamaree didn’t start playing without his knee brace until the fall, and everybody that saw him offered him a scholarship,” said Cronin. “He’s left-handed; he’s 6’9 ½” or 6’10” and has great hands and a soft touch. He can score. Most big guys can do one of two things – they are either a shot blocker or they can score. Jamaree can score and is a very comfortable offensive player. He has range on his jump shot, and has a nice jump hook and a soft touch. We’re going to have to get his body together because he’s been out, but he’s lost weight and that’s why he’s come on so much after he got his knee brace off. Once we get him in shape, he has a chance to be a great player for us.”
Cincinnati still has one scholarship available.
“That’s by design,” Mick told me. “When you get your program on solid footing you’re not desperate so you don’t have to just take guys and hope for the best because you need bodies. When you’re in a good position you can confidently say, ‘We have 11 or 12 players and that’s enough.’ Then you have a scholarship available when things happen. For instance, we have one available now. So second semester, if a very good player wanted to transfer here over the Christmas break, we could take him. If that doesn’t happen, then Alex Eppensteiner will get to use it in the second semester. I would definitely rather have a scholarship than take a chance on a guy that you’re not really sure about.”
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