Known for its in-your-face defense, Cincinnati has relied on its
offense's out-of-sight shooting to make the NCAA tournament the
last four years. Nick Van Exel's successor in audacity, LaZelle
Durden, used up his eligibility last season. Durden's heir gun
figured to be junior guard Darnell Burton, who as a backup found
no distance too far, no do-or-die moment too daunting. But
Burton will be setting up a bit too far outside at Cincy, having
been suspended for the season by coach Bob Huggins (page 114)
for a violation of team rules. With Burton banished, the
returning players combined for all of 31 three-pointers in
So this will be a different breed of Cat, which is not to say an
inferior one. For the first time in Huggins's seven years, his
team will depend almost exclusively on inside scoring; also for
the first time, he has two players capable of regularly
providing some. At 6'7" and 260 pounds, sophomore Danny Fortson
(15.1 points a game, 7.6 rebounds) is an immovable force with an
immaculate touch. "He's like a Wes Unseld," assistant coach John
Loyer says. "He's an old-school, grind-it-out player." Working
out with a trainer over the summer, Fortson improved his speed
while raising his vertical leap by four inches, to 30. He also
did some heavy lifting. "For a while I actually felt too strong
to play basketball," Fortson says.
Senior center Art Long racked up 22 points and 15 boards in the
Bearcats' second-round, 96-91 loss to UConn in last season's
NCAA tournament. While those numbers left Long feeling good
about his game, Huggins was unimpressed. "I gave Art the tape
and told him to watch it," Huggins says. "He didn't really
play." While Huggins is trying to make Long go, opposing fans
will be shrieking, "Mongo!": In May, Long was stopped by the
Cincinnati police and subsequently arrested for punching a cop's
horse. He pleaded not guilty to an assault charge; the case has
not come to court.
If those two forces aren't forceful enough, the Cats can call on
6'4", 230-pound Rodrick Monroe, a transfer from McLennan (Texas)
Community College. Monroe, who steps in for departed muscleman
Curtis Bostic, bench-presses 425 pounds and leaps 40 inches.
"This kid could eat Bostic for lunch," Loyer says.
The point guard spot belongs to senior Keith LeGree, a baseball
prospect for the Minnesota Twins who's no long-ball threat on
the basketball court, and Marcus Moss, a 5'10" juco transfer
with a take-charge attitude. Rangy, 6'5" junior Damon Flint,
recovered from a toe injury, will get minutes everywhere.
"Whatever needs to be done, I can do it," Flint says. "You need
a shot, need to get the ball inside, need a steal--I'll get it
To hold sway over the new-spangled Conference USA as they did
over the Great Midwest--they won the last four conference
tournaments--the Cats will have to dial up the pressure even more
on defense. "Last year we didn't have everyone on the same
page," Fortson says. "This year we're going to. Or I'm going to
be letting guys know how it's going to be."
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO The versatile Flint is back on his toes. [Damon Flint]
THE DATA BOX
Coach: Bob Huggins
Career record: 306-130 (14 seasons)
Record at Cincinnati: 138-58 (6 seasons)
1994-95 record: 22-12 (final ranking: none)
Great Midwest record: 7-5 (tied for third)
SF Rodrick Monroe, 6'4", Jr.
Topped all juco players in FG%
PF *Danny Fortson, 6'7", Soph.
Shot 53.5% as a freshman
C *Art Long, 6'9", Sr.
Leading rebounder, with 8.3 per game
SG Damon Flint, 6'5", Jr.
Will also see time at forward
PG *Keith LeGree, 6'0", Sr.
Bearcats' top assist man, with 126
Dec. 20 at California
Bears have won five of six against Bearcats
Jan. 25 vs. DePaul
Cincy has won nine straight vs. Blue Demons
Feb. 22 vs. Louisville
New conference foes haven't met since '91
Feb. 29 vs. Memphis
Tigers took two of three last season
March 2 at Marquette
Finale could have big Conference USA consequences