Troy Caupain verbally committed to play college basketball at Cincinnati in early June before his senior year of high school.
Three days later, Kevin Johnson did the same thing.
The two future Bearcats read about each other after committing to UC, but didn’t cross paths until an unexpected meeting the following month.
“We met at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas,” said Caupain. “We played in a back gym – Team Loaded vs OBC (Ohio Basketball Club). It went to overtime and unfortunately, Kevin’s team beat us by like one point. Later on the trip, we were walking the strip and I saw his team at Chipotle and we both had on Cincinnati shirts. I was like, ‘That’s Kevin.’ And he was like, ‘That’s Troy.’ There was a bond from there.”
“Their friendship kind of started at that tournament in Vegas,” said UC associate head coach Larry Davis. “They made the effort to hook up with one another because they were both committed to Cincinnati.”
Caupain was born in Amityville, NY but attended high school near Richmond, VA. Johnson grew up in Cincinnati and introduced his future teammate to his hometown when they were still in high school.”
“I visited during spring break senior year and spent a week with him and we built a relationship,” said Caupain. “Ever since then, there’s been a bond that can’t be broken.”
“He’s my brother,” said Johnson. “I feel like I’ve known him for more than these two years of college. It seems like I’ve known him forever and that’s a good feeling man.”
“That wasn’t a surprise because of their families,” said head coach Mick Cronin. “They’re both educated and intelligent kids and they got to know each other before they even came to Cincinnati. I think they both have the character where they are rooting for the other guy. It’s important on a team to have somebody there to support you when you struggle. It’s easy for the kids when things are going well, but Troy and Kevin have really helped each other through any tough times that they’ve had to this point in their careers.”
After coming off of the bench as freshman, the two roommates are starting backcourt mates as sophomores. Caupain leads the Bearcats in scoring (10.1) and assists (3.6), and Johnson is averaging 7.6 points since the start of conference play.
“It definitely helps to know that you have somebody by your side who believes in you,” said Johnson. “And we definitely have that chemistry – you kind of know what the other guy is going to do and that’s a great feeling on the court.”
“If you look at great guard tandems over the years, they had a second sense for knowing when the other guy was going to cut or what he was going to do,” said Coach Davis. “I think the more that they play together, the more they are going to develop that closeness.”
And it’s not only on offense. A major reason why Cincinnati is fifth in the nation in scoring defense (54.5 points) is the pressure Caupain and Johnson put on opposing guards at the top of UC’s matchup zone.
“You see it out front in our defense when Troy and Kevin are in there and they are playing as one,” said Coach Cronin. “The more they do that, the better we’ve gotten on defense. And I really believe over the last few weeks that it’s improved immensely.”
While their chemistry continues to grow on the court, the backcourt brothers could not be much closer off of it.
“We sit in our living room all the time after practice and talk about everything,” said Caupain. “Deshaun Morman is usually with us too – he lives across the hall but he’s like a roommate. We talk about the things you need to talk about with people that are really important to you.”
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