Wes Miller: 'Crucial Offseason' Ahead for Pair of Bearcats

All Bearcats
All Bearcats

The basketball team has added plenty of talent recently, but still needs some internal development to make it all come together.

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CINCINNATI — Bearcats head basketball coach Wes Miller recently chatted with The Athletic's Brian Hamilton and highlighted two players heading into important developmental offseasons.

Junior wing Jeremiah Davenport and freshman center Viktor Lakhin are carrying that mantle.

"Jeremiah Davenport, No. 1," Miller said about the player he wants to develop most this summer. "He can take a humungous leap. He was at the top of the scouting report for the first time in his college career, where the other team was designed to take him away. That’s always an interesting transition for a player, to deal with that. I thought he handled it well. But now he understands what he has to do to take another step as a player. This is a crucial offseason for him, and there’s so much room for him to improve. He’s such a gifted offensive player as it stands."

Davenport (13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists) was one of the best scorers on the team last year, but he can do a lot to round out his game. The obvious areas for improvement are with on and off-ball defense, plus, playmaking in transition and in the halfcourt. At 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, Davenport has all the physical tools to improve across those areas.

Lakhin (4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.2 assists) is a few years younger than Davenport and hasn't had as much time to get a normal development program working, but that's changing in 2022.

"And then I look at our frontcourt guys," Miller said . "They all are important. I don’t want to minimize anybody else. But I look at Viktor Lakhin, who’s as gifted as anybody on our whole roster. But he was a first-year player in college basketball, coming from Europe. In my experience, kids coming directly from Europe who haven’t been in prep school or something, that first year is a big adjustment, no matter how high a level they’ve played.

"And he played at a really high level with CSKA Moscow’s junior team and with the Russian national team. Regardless of the level he played, that transition to a different style of basketball is hard. I thought he had some moments where he looked like one of the better bigs in our league, and I thought he had some moments where he looked like a first-year player going through a transition. If he has the kind of offseason he’s had to date — and he’s having a great one — I think he could have one of the biggest jumps in the American."

The Russian has played in 29 games last season after missing the entire 2020-21 campaign due to injury. Lakhin was the most efficient shooter on the team last year (54.9% true shooting) and now needs to expand that into a larger shot diet this season.

He brings a lot of strong minutes on defense, but the offense needs to come around for Cincinnati's frontcourt to meet expectations in 2022-23. Read the full conversation here .

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