By Jon Rothstein
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He’s always been the player that’s been frustrating to watch.
Like a plant that never seems to blossom, Yancy Gates has always been the unborn star.
Recruited by Mick Cronin four years ago to be the cornerstone piece in the revival of Cincinnati basketball, Gates has been anything but.
Inconsistency and immaturity plagued the early years of his career and then earlier this season, Gates was at the epicenter of a vicious brawl with cross town rival Xavier and subsequently was hit with a six game suspension following the incident.
A waste of talent? It certainly looked like it — until recently.
The 6-foot-9, 260 pound mountain masquerading as a man has been a different player the last month of the season and looked every bit the part of the player Cronin thought he was getting four years ago in yesterday’s 72-70 double overtime win over Georgetown.
Gates finished with 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds against in what his coach called by far the best game of his career.
“He’s become a winner,” Cronin said of Gates. “For four years, I’ve been trying to figure out the right way to use Yancy and we’ve finally found it with this four guard lineup.”
Often operating as the Bearcats’ sole interior presence on the floor, Gates traded shots yesterday with Georgetown’s Henry Sims in an old school showdown of big men that had the Madison Square Garden faithful salivating as if they were watching a matinee in the Theater District.
Gates won the battle and in reward will lead Cincinnati against top-seeded Syracuse tonight at the Garden.
“His best basketball is way ahead of him still as he continues his body and become an adult,” Cronin said after the game. “He’s been called upon to do a lot, too much, in rebuilding our program, before he was ready to do it. It was really unfair. He’s been through a lot.”
But he’s never played in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament at the World’s Most Famous Arena. That will come tonight.
“This is my last shot at it,” Gates said after the win over Georgetown. “I’ll never play in the Garden in the Big East Tournament again, so I’m just trying to push and fight and stay here as long as possible.”
What’s your prediction for Cincy-SU? Be heard in the comments below…