PRODUCTS: Herb Jones (1990-92), Corie Blount (1991-93), Danny Fortson (1994-97), Kenyon Martin (1996-00), Jason Maxiell (2001-05), Eric Hicks (2002-).
When Eric Hicks arrived at the University of Cincinnati as a lanky 6-foot-6, 205-pound freshman, he hardly looked like someone who would soon become one of the nation's most ferocious rebounders. Though Hicks averaged 30 points per game in high school, Bob Huggins wanted him to play power forward instead of the wing.
Under the tutelage of sophomore Jason Maxiell, Hicks hit the weights and built his physique. He put on 35 pounds of muscle and started doing the little things coaches love -- rebounding, shot blocking and playing tough interior defense. His minutes and output increased his sophomore season and he led the Bearcats in rebounding as a junior with nine per game. Entering his final season, Hicks is hoping that his strong inside play will help Bearcats fans forget the program's tumultuous off-season and remind them of better times.
Transition is the key word at Cincinnati this year. Huggins won't be roaming the sidelines this season and the Bearcats also will be without Maxiell, last year's leading scorer, who was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Pistons. UC president Nancy Zimpher, who grew tired of the program's reputation for poor graduation rates and off-court problems, informed Huggins in late August that he had 24 hours to resign or be fired. Huggins chose the former and his top assistant, Andy Kennedy, was named interim coach. Alumni support dissipated after the contentious exit of Huggins, and former star Kenyon Martin, one of three Bearcats to have his number retired, said in August that he wants no association with the school and wants his number removed from the rafters.
Amid all these changes, however, the sight of an intimidating inside force snatching rebounds and clearing space down low -- The Cincinnati Muscleman -- will be a familiar one to fans.
"When Coach [Huggins] first got here, he had success with undersized power players who play bigger than their actual size," says Kennedy. "If the formula works, don't mess with it."