Rather than wade deeper into the waiting waters of spring signing Mick Cronin accepted the verbal commitment from Jamaree Strickland Tuesday. The commitment is valuable on several levels.
First and foremost Cincinnati now has an incoming freshman (in 2013) to teach and bring along for four years. Too often Coach Cronin has added junior college big men to his squad in hopes of plugging holes. The best teams (save Kentucky) need stars and future stars on their roster.
In the same fashion that Cincinnati's coaching staff has developed its fine guards they can attempt to develop Jamaree Strickland, who by all accounts works exceedingly hard.
"He is a kid that works hard," said AAU Coach Richard Guillen. "He isn't playing with knee brace anymore. He lost an additional 25 pounds since he got there. He is a joy to be with us. He is a real nice kid. Respectful. All he really knows is play hard."
This year Strickland is prepping at Queen City Prep in North Carolina.
Relatively early in his high school career Jamaree Strickland suffered a major setback.
"He played with Oakland Soldiers (AAU) 10th grade," said Coach Guillen. "He messed up ACL around 10th grade year. He missed his whole junior year. He had minor and then major surgery. They had to double back on the surgery."
It has been less than a year since he began playing again. The botched surgery and second surgery took away his entire junior season. He didn't get to play for the first half of his senior year.
Coach Cronin and his staff spotted him in July out east while he was playing AAU with Hunting Park Warriors AAU.
"He worked himself back in shape," said Coach Guillen. "Real nice kid. High intellect. 6'10 at the time. He stayed with family in Philadelphia. From April to July he lost about 45 pounds. He was hefty. On YouTube he looks hefty. He lost a LOT of weight. That is abig thing for him being more aggressive."
Coach Guillen compares him to Zach Randolph (NBA) and Strickland's AAU teammate Anthony Durham agrees.
"That is the perfect comparison," said Durham. "Right there. He is a good rebounder. He is really strong down low. He has a nice left-handed jump hook. He can shoot it too from the elbow."
Durham loved playing with Strickland because of his work ethic, but predicts an even brighter future for the recovering rebounder.
"I think he will be more athletic (losing weight)," said Durham. "I know he is coming off knee injury. I think he will be outstanding with the weight loss."
Apparently the weight just keeps dripping off his body. Reports out of Charlotte, North Carolina convey at least 25 lost pounds since August.
Queen City Prep opens its season in two days. Their schedule is a little unconventional with contests throughout the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Teams like Laurinburg Institute provide their toughest competition.
Carrying his Top 50 skill set Strickland will come to campus with a willingness to work and the right attitude to succeed within the UC program.
"Humility might be the biggest part," said Coach Guillen. "If you didn't know him you might think he comes from a military background. Everything is 'Yes, sir' and 'No, ma'am.' He understands that well-mannered behavior."
No longer competing with a knee brace it appears that the knee injury may be a thing of the fading past. And if his talent was good enough to land him on a Top 5 West Coast AAU program like the Oakland Soldiers than this could be a remarkable find for Cincinnati and Mick Cronin.