Thursday, July 3, 2008

Prepare For Disappointment: The Yancy Gates Experience

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Bearcats fans, but one day this November you will find yourself shouting the following line towards your Samsung television as the Bearcats play Athletes in Action (or whoever): I hate watching this guy play.

And the "this guy" will be former Withrow star Yancy Gates.

If you follow recruiting, you've heard the stories. The stories usually mention laziness and attitude problems. And if you're like me, you choose to ignore them and decide for yourself. Well, I decided to see for myself at the Deveroes League, and the results weren't pretty.

(Before going any further, let's get something straight: Yes, Gates is talented, and blessed with a spectacular body, but he's not the 6'9 superfreak he's made out to be. He's nowhere near as gifted as Dontonio Wingfield, and his raw athleticism isn't in the same galaxy as Kenyon Martin; his on-court movement lacks suddenness. And while he's been billed as a pretty good perimeter shooter, that is dubious. His technique is pretty awful--he's never squared up and his shooting motion is not unlike a Bill Cartwright free throw--and it takes forever for him to release it. This is a bad thing when you consider how much hovering Gates does near the three-point line.)


I've now seen him up close twice and I can tell you the horror stories are true.

Let's do some counting:

1. When he gets a defensive rebound (which is rare), he takes forever to outlet the ball (which stunts the fastbreak, a summer league staple) before jogging up court.

My take: The laziness factor doesn't bother me here nearly as much as the obvious selfishness. As a lover of fastbreak basketball--something Mick Cronin desperately wants--nothing aggravates me more than a big man who slowly outlets the ball because he won't be able to join the fun. This is horrible news for Cashmere Wright, who thrives on pushing the pace.

2. In a game last Tuesday Gates caught the ball about fifteen feet from the basket (between the extended elbow and the baseline) and passed the ball to an area where he expected a cutter. No cutter. Also, no big deal - after all, getting to know your new teammates is part of the equation with summer hoops, right? Wrong. It was a big deal to Gates. He threw up his hands at said non-cutter, as if to say, what's wrong with you?

My take: If you think I'm making a problem where there isn't one you didn't see what I did. His body language was terrible. I've played basketball with people like Gates--you probably have, too--and it's an awful experience. Basketball isn't fun when your teammates don't have your back.

3. Gates continually argued with "coach" D'Juan Baker during a timeout in last Tuesday's game.

My take: Gates was way out of line. Regardless of Baker's current role, he's still closely tied to his alma mater, and there to monitor the big man's growth.

Do I need to continue? Do I need to question his toughness, which is virtually nonexistent? I won't bother; I think you get my point.

(Something that warrants mentioning: I've never wanted to be so wrong about something as this. I'm rooting like hell for Yancy Gates. He plays for the Cincinnati Bearcats, and that happens to be my college basketball team of choice (that actually understates the matter; I throw things when they lose). I hope Mick Cronin can get him to play as hard as Danny Fortson. I hope Mick Cronin will disprove my belief that energy and effort are a matter of DNA. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams. I hope.)

Again, anyway...

Gates has been (at times) labeled as a savior. That simply isn't the case. I'm considering him a project with considerable upside. That way, I can rejoice if and when he becomes a contributor. As for now, I see myself truly despising his lacking heart and poor attitude. And I'm pretty sure you'll be joining me.

Hey, we've been there before with talented underachievers: Do the names Robert Whaley and Armein Kirkland ring a bell?

-Brad Spieser (


Evan said...
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Evan said...
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Evan said...

Hey Brad, I am not here to bash your opinions, because they are just that: opinions. As will be thoughts that follow: simply my opinion.

I have been out to summer league all summer. I have watched Yancy Gates play in High School. I am, also, a realist in terms of what an 18 year old kid can do in the Big East no matter how highly touted he is. But I will respectfully disagree with your opinions in your blog.

What I see during the summer league is what I always refer to as "glorified street ball", not quite as over the top as say And 1, but certainly not as structure as D-1 ball. It is a league driven by guards, fast breaks, crazy plays, and guys trying to make "the highlight reels". But, when Cashmere Wright, or Dion, or Deonta or whoever got the ball to Yancy Gates down low, it was more often than not a thing of beauty.

Did he come off as lazy or maybe unmotivated sometimes? Sure. That was one of the big reasons why major recruiting publications dropped him from a 5 to a 4 star going into his senior year. However, those same publications after seeing his work against highly rated players such as B.J. Mullens now of the Ohio State University, or Tyreke Evans of Memphis, they moved him back up to a 5 because they see what many have seen: Yancy plays to the level of his competition. Now, a competent coach (which I feel Mick Cronin WAY exceeds) will be able to work this out and hopefully in short order.

Also, while you saw him miss a cutter on one of the two times you attended, I saw some beautiful passes made by him all summer. I also saw some passes to nobody. He is 1, he will make mistakes.

But physically he is as big if not bigger than Fortson was. Athletically, he probably isn't as gifted as Kenyon, but it isn't a large difference. His shot from distance may not look pretty, but his touch is feathery and light, and his knack for scoring near the basket is uncanny, as yesterday in the semi finals he used an assortment of moves to put up 27 points. Again, this is summer league, I am very well aware, but the talent and ability is there.

And yes, he did argue with Baker some, but what you possibly didn't see, or don't know about, is that while he may be vocal in his response, he learned as the league progressed, and learning in any of its forms, shows me at least a willingness to get better.

I am a person who has been around UC Basketball my whole life, from the last days of Tony Yates, throughout the Huggins era, to the present. I have been a ball boy, I sit second row every home game behind the scorers table. I have seen every single highly touted big man to come through, from Corey Blount to your example of Robert Whaley. Is Yancy as good as Corey yet, or as bad as Whaley turned out t be. No and No. He is an 18 year old kid who is playing summer ball. Once the season starts, I will give the kid the time to learn the college game, but once he does, I have every reason to believe in my heart that the coach in the visitors locker room will be sweating just a little bit more, because he will know that he won't have just Deonta to worry about any more. He will have a vastly improved Rashad, lightning quick Cashmere, a returning Mike Williams, a deep deep bench, and the emerging monster, Yancy Gates.

Have faith...the season hasn't even started yet.

Go Cats!

Twin Killing dot Com said...

Evan, I appreciate your detailed response - you clearly care about the Cats the way I do. Needless to say, though, I disagree with quite a bit of what you had to say. I will respond to this when I get an extra second. Probably later tonight.

Twin Killing dot Com said...

Ok, before moving forward...

I am a basketball junkie. And then some. I play frequently and watch everything - NBA League Pass, summer leagues, Mountain West games...everything. Especially UC. I was 9-years-old when Huggs came to town and I was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that I followed Nick Van Exel's pro career to the point where I should never be around him in person; I would come off like Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney on SNL.

(Note: I have between 500-1000 hours of Van Exel games on tape)

What I'm trying to say is that I care deeply about the Bearcats. I also am never one to write or say something simply for affect. When I say that Gates will disappoint, I mean it. And like I said, I hope I'm wrong.

But anyway...

I never complained about Gates missing a cutter - I said that he showed up his teammate because he didn't cut. Big Difference.

You referred to summer league being "glorified street ball"...believe me, I get it. Anyone who knows anything knows what summer league is all about. But it doesn't mean it's an excuse to be lazy - certainly not with Deonta Vaughn busting his ass on the same team.

You say he's bigger than Fortson - so what? I say I'll give you one billion American dollars if he ever plays half as hard as Fortson.

You said the gap athletcally between Gates and Kenyon Martin isn't big - you're wrong. It's huge. As I wrote in my original Gates piece, he lacks suddenness. Kenyon Martin, while not entirely polished, was the most sudden athlete who ever played at UC. And probably ever will.

I'll agree that Gates has feathery and light touch, although it's still a work in progress. While I'm glad he possesses the ability to stick a perimeter jumper, that can be dangerous, especially for someone who comes with the "lazy" tag. His post skills will be needed, well, in the post.

Finallly...and I can't oversate this...

I hope like hell I'm wrong. I care about UC hoops deeply, and I'd love for Gates to be a monster in the Big East, and maybe, just maybe, helping to remove the bad taste left in my mouth when Kenyon Martin snapped his ankle.

That is all.


Evan said...

Hey there Brad. Read your reply. I appreciate your comments and your opinions.

I will agree to disagree with you. I get your point about the cutter, and I must have misread your statement. But, maybe I am naïve the closer I get to 30, that shows me a guy who wants to make the play, and expects his team mate to be there.

A billion dollars would be nice. I am not sure how exactly we will be able to prove that Yancy busts his ass any percentage of what Danny did, but I will try to figure that one out next time I see either of them ;-)

Yancy comes in to the year, whether people believe it or not, with a much more polished game than Kenyon did. I also know for a FACT that Yancy has been running his ass off, working his ass off in the gym, killing himself to retain the muscle and improve his athleticism even more so than it already is. Will he ever be as “sudden” as Kenyon? No, probably not, you are fairly right about that. Kenyon was in a class of his own in college in terms of his ability to just rise out of nowhere. But I see the potential in Yancy to get close.

The fact is everyone I have talked to on the staff, everyone who knows him well from the other players to family friends, has total faith that for whatever shortcomings he may have now, he wants to rid himself of them, and become the power forward he always wanted to be. That is good enough for me.

“When I say that Gates will disappoint, I mean it. And like I said, I hope I'm wrong.”

I know for me, after two games, no accurate judgment can be made.

Maybe even after all the games I have seen no proper judgment can be made.

What I know is when he walks out there and asserts his will, Yancy is near unstoppable. And I have seen nothing to tell me that he will not overcome his own shortcomings to meet not only the general populaces expectations, but to make you look back and say “I hoped I was wrong, and I’m glad I was”

And that billion dollars will be nice too.

End of line.


J said...

I was and am a HUGE Van Exel fan as well.

I think it is easily forgotten that Kenyon Martin wasn't that good his freshman year or even his sophomore year for that matter.

Fortunately for Kenyon he wasn't expected to be superman from day one.

But for some reason if Yancy doesn't play like a cross between Kenyon Martin (or more accurately the Martin we remember which is Sr. year Martin) and Shaq, we are in prep mode for disapointment?

From all accounts I have ever heard Yancy is a great kid. From all accounts I have heard he is also working hard.

Lets let Yancy, Mick and Co. do their thing towards building him into a highly productive player. He deserves a level of support and "reasonable" expectations that we gave guys like Van Exel, Martin, Fortson etc, etc etc.

Personally, my only fear is that we don't get enough time to see him fully grow and develop HERE.

Twin Killing dot Com said...


You said:

"I will agree to disagree with you. I get your point about the cutter, and I must have misread your statement. But, maybe I am naïve the closer I get to 30, that shows me a guy who wants to make the play, and expects his team mate to be there."

You might be the walking definition of Glass Half Full. He passed the ball - nothing more, nothing less.

Effort (Fortson vs. Gates)...We might need John Hollinger to figure out a Busts His Ass percentage. That would be something.

Sudenness (Kenyon vs. Gates)...I don't know how much Yancy Gates can work on his athleticism. He can improve it somewhat, I suppose, but endless jumping jacks sessions won't turn him into a quick leaper like Kenyon Martin or Ruben Patterson. (Just like weightlifting programs will never allow Danny Herrera to throw 95 MPH).

And again, Yancy Gates isn't a bum athletically. He's plenty gifted to excel in the Big East. Plus, he has a magnificent body.

Conversations w/staff...If you say you have connections to the staff--AND IF they're shooting you sraight--that's great news about his training program dilligence. Remember, I'm pulling for Gates.

You said:

"I know for me, after two games, no accurate judgment can be made."

No question. I'm sure Mick Cronin would laugh in my face if he read my post. But my belief is that laziness is in one's DNA. If that's the case, two games or thousand, it doesn't matter how many games I saw.

About the billion dollars...I might not be able to come up with it for the next 25,000 years or so. Perhaps we can work out a payment plan - this way you can experience what all my ex-bookies have.

Until next time.

(Shoot me an email so we can communicate during the season)


Twin Killing dot Com said...


First, you said you were a HUGE Nick Van Exel fan. You even used capital letters for emphasis. Well, to me, that is HUGE! Since you are a HUGE Van Exel fan, it means that you can do no wrong in my book. Hell, if you wanted to beat up my grandmothers, I'd let you. Of course, they're dead (they stopped breathing and whatnot). But I think you get the idea.

Now, you said:

"I think it is easily forgotten that Kenyon Martin wasn't that good his freshman year or even his sophomore year for that matter.

Fortunately for Kenyon he wasn't expected to be superman from day one.

But for some reason if Yancy doesn't play like a cross between Kenyon Martin (or more accurately the Martin we remember which is Sr. year Martin) and Shaq, we are in prep mode for disapointment?"

I think you just made my point, fella. Gates is twice as skilled as Kenyon Martin was as an 18-year-old. But Martin played as hard or harder than any player of the Huggs-and-beyond era, and improved monumentally (understatement) over a four year period. But you already knew that.

Gates has the POTENTIAL to be a near-dominant big man. But how badly does he want it? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

(One last thing: You said Martin 'wasn't that good his freshman year or even his sophomore year.' Not so fast, my friend. While it took him a minute to figure out the offensive side of things, he was a menace defensively from a Day One - if I'm not mistaken he was C-USA Def. POY his sophomore year. That's hardly the definition of "wasn't that good.")

Good day.


J said...


I feel some comraderie in the mutual appreciation for NVE's game.

I would also like to thank you for your generous offer to allow me to rough up your grandmothers. Invitations and opportunities to beat up grandparents are rare indeed and I am sorry for you loss and mine as well.

Regarding Gates I think the outcome will be better than you anticipate. Regardless I would only encourage you (and really all Bearcat fans) to give him the same space and realistic expectations we gave other players. The worst possible outcome would be that other local players think twice about coming here because we pound them with criticism and warped expectations before they go through a single team practice. And there are several high major prospects in the area currently considering UC at the moment. Picking up a couple commitments would set the talen stage for several years to come (which would be HUGE).

Good point about Kenyon's D his soph year (fella).

Have a good one.