Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin is relying on his senior class to lead the team to success this season, and in a dominating 68-34 win against Dayton on Saturday Rashad Bishop and Darnell Wilks provided exactly what he was looking for.
Rashad Bishop photo by Brian Baker, Lacking Focus Photgraphy
While the stat sheet was solid for each player, it wasn't overwhelming. Bishop finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds while Wilks had 4 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. What they provided more than anything in their 44 combined minutes of action was leadership on the floor, and it was exactly what Cronin has worked to cultivate in his senior class.
“You've got to lead by playing smart and doing what the coach asks,” Cronin said. “Leadership is not cheerleadership. Playing smart, playing hard, coaching your teammates and showing them you're committed to doing the things it takes to win a game, that’s leadership. We've grown a lot and come a long way in that department.”
Bishop has come a long way since his suspension before the Big East Tournament at the end of last season. After sparking the team by scoring 7 of the first 13 points against Dayton he is focused on making everyone better with his actions on the court.
“It's easy to lead by example,” said Bishop who scored all 10 of this points in the 1st half. “You can show people better than you tell them so if you just go out there and play hard everybody else will follow.”
Cronin has always praised his physical forward for high level performance on the defensive end of the court, but leading in to his final season wearing Red and Black, the coach spent a lot of time talking to Bishop about becoming a complete player in all aspects of the game.
“He's doing a great job in a lot of areas, but his leadership is probably the best thing,” Cronin said. “Taking responsibility to make sure the team's ready to play, focusing on the details and being a coach on the floor, he's also really trying to be a better player on offense whether he's scoring or he's creating for his teammates. That's been the biggest difference. He's always been a great defender, but his preparation, his leadership and his offense are the things I tried to get across to him last spring and he's bringing it to the table now.”
Wilks is an outstanding pure athlete with a quiet nature so finding ways for him to lead has been a work in progress. After trying to find his niche for almost 3 seasons, he broke out in the Big East Tournament during Bishop's absence and is trying to carry that over to his final season in college. While the two are not similar in style of play they do share the same lead by example mentality.
“I've never been the type to yell and stuff because it's not my place,” Wilks said. “I just go out there and work hard and get other people to follow suit.”
Darnell Wilks photo by Brian Baker, Lacking Focus Photgraphy
In the Dayton game Cronin called on Wilks to guard Flyers star forward Chris Wright and he answered the bell by holding him to 1-9 shooting and only 4 points by cutting off driving lanes and forcing him into jumpers.
“His effort was tremendous,” Cronin said. “He's got to continue to use his athleticism. He still made a few of what we call 'Darnell passes' in the 1st half, but his activity and use of his athleticism is excellent. He also locked in to the scouting report on Chris Wright making sure he didn't drive the ball.”
With the big win over Dayton now behind them the pair of seniors know they must once again set the tone for Wright State and make sure there is no mental let down due to overconfidence. After three seasons of ups and downs, Bishop was ready to get out on the floor and lead by example once again.
“We can't show like we're getting cocky over one win,” said Bishop. “We've just got to come out and keep working hard in practice.”