When the Cincinnati Bearcats take the floor against Bellarmine for the second and final exhibition game on Monday night junior college transfer Titus Rubles will be looking to duplicate his strong performance in the opener.
The 6-foot-7 Dallas native scored 11 points and added 8 rebounds in his Cincinnati debut, and head coach Mick Cronin is already very comfortable with his versatile stretch forward on the floor.
“The big thing about Titus is sometimes junior college guys don’t play hard enough to be a factor right away,” Cronin said before practice on Thursday. “I think he does.”
Playing hard is one of the few traits that translates at ant level, but it isn't the only one that Rubles possesses. He's also a guy that has a very good feel for the game, and that makes him a guy that is easy for Cronin to coach.
“Second thing and probably most important is his basketball IQ, which is something you really don’t know until you get a guy in practice,” said Cronin. “You don’t have to tell him things more than once, which allows him to quickly adjust and it allows you to improve as a player because you can take coaching and apply it to your game.”
His ability to adjust quickly along with a thumb injury to junior Justin Jackson put Rubles in a position to see the starting lineup for his first game at the D1 level, and Rubles felt that helped him find a rhythm quickly last Monday night against Grand Valley State.
“A lot of people don’t get to start their first D-1 game obviously at a program like this, a top 25 program, so it was really good to get the start,” Rubles said. “It calmed my nerves down a lot, especially when I hit my first shot, that’s when it made me really realize, ‘okay, I can do this now.’”
While he is a young man that carries himself with a lot of natural confidence, things were not easy when he arrived on campus back in June.
Summer conditioning and workouts have a way of breaking down even the toughest kids upon arrival at this level, but Rubles was able to work through the growing pains and now feels comfortable in his new home.
“When I first got here it was like ‘dang, can I really play at this level?’” Rubles said. “But I’ve been here since the summer so it is normal now because I have been practicing with the guys since the summer. I’m glad the NCAA made that rule where you could be here in the summer so now it is really like just adjusting my game (this time of year). When I first got here it was really hard.”
What made the biggest difference in his transition was playing on a veteran team that is looking out for everyone on the roster. Rubles was most impressed with the help provided by Jackson even though they are battling for playing time at the power forward position.
“These guys up here, even Justin (Jackson), me and him play the same position and on plays I don’t know he’s steady telling me, ‘be right here, be right here.’ Guys really want to help you and want to see you do well,” Rubles said. “It is good having veteran players that have been through it.
It has been clear since he arrived that he has all of the intangibles needed for success, but as Cronin was listing off his best qualities he saved the best for last. As he showed last week, he can flat out play.
“The last thing is his raw ability is tremendous,” said Cronin. “He can make shots. He’s explosive. He’s got great size. He’s a very good passer, and he can really defend. He can defend four positions, really maybe five.”
Rubles will get to put it on display once again Monday night at 7 pm inside 5/3 Arena against DII power Bellarmine.
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