On Friday morning I asked Coreontae DeBerry to draw an outline of his hand on a piece of paper. Here’s a photo of my normal-sized hand in front of Cory’s outline.
“I didn’t know that he had bigger hands than Dr. J until I shook his hand for the first time and said, ‘Oh my goodness,’” said head coach Mick Cronin. “It’s unbelievable.”
“He has the biggest hands in the world,” said Farad Cobb.
Fittingly, the man with mammoth mitts earned a big hand from Bearcats fans in Thursday’s 66-65 overtime win over Purdue.
When Octavius Ellis was ejected early in the second half for committing a flagrant foul, Cincinnati needed DeBerry to stay on the floor for the rest of the game to defend Purdue’s 7-footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. The 6’9”, 275 pound junior played all but 50 seconds of the final 21:22 (including overtime).
“After we told Octavius, ‘Don’t worry about (getting ejected),’ we turned to Cory and said, ‘Time to step up. We need some big minutes from you and you’re ready for it,’” said Cobb.
DeBerry played a season-high 26 minutes which was five more minutes than his previous three games combined.
“I was really, really tired but I knew that my team needed me the most when Octavius got thrown out of the game,” said DeBerry.
“I told him that he could worry about being tired after the game,” said Shaq Thomas.
DeBerry didn’t only protect the paint on defense. He scored a career-high 13 points including a balletic reverse layup with 3:08 left in overtime that gave Cincinnati the lead for good.
“The last time I hit that shot was in high school,” said DeBerry. “When I got the ball I just looked to score. I saw an open spot and I went to it.”
“That was sick,” said Cobb. “I was like, ‘That’s got to be a Top 10 highlight to see a big dude do a move like that.’ I was hyped.”
“He looked like a point guard,” said Jermaine Sanders. “He looked like he was about 6 feet tall, 180 pounds the way he was moving.”
DeBerry’s performance was undoubtedly a shock for Purdue, but Cincinnati’s players and coaches claim that they weren’t surprised.
“I knew that it was going to come out sooner or later because I practice against him every day,” said Ellis. “That’s why it was very exciting to see him play like that last night.”
“I knew he had it in him,” said Cronin. “It’s our job to get it out of him. That’s what they pay us for. With all due respect to my buddy Doug Kecman who is out there coaching the Seven Hills girls’ team, he’s an amateur and we’re professionals. We’re well-paid and we have to get it out of him.
“Probably the biggest thing I remember Coach Pitino saying all the time is that you never lament about your players – your job is to find a way to get it out of them. Cory’s got it in him. We just have to keep finding a way to get it out of him.”
On Saturday, DeBerry, Ellis, and Gary Clark will have to contend with the biggest team in college basketball. Kentucky has three starters that are 6’10” or taller and brings a 7-footer off of the bench.
“They need to protect the paint and make them shoot tough shots,” said Cobb. “And then as a team, we all need to get in there and help them get rebounds.”
“Everybody in this locker room is going to have to rebound,” said Thomas. “We can’t just rely on Cory, Octavius, and Gary to get rebounds; it’s going to have to come from the guards too.”
“We’re a tough team and we don’t back down to anyone,” said DeBerry. “We’re just going to go out there and give it our best effort.”
Coreontae has rarely been accused of not giving a full effort. In fact, in middle school when he couldn’t find a baseball mitt to fit his already-giant hand, he volunteered to play the outfield without a glove.
“I said, ‘I’m just going to go barehanded,’” said DeBerry. “The teacher said, ‘Are you sure? It’s going to hurt.’ I said, ‘I’m fine.’ I caught three fly balls in the outfield. It worked out fine.”
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1