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Cincinnati aims to keep leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick fresh during preseason

Sep 29, 2013, 4:40 PM EST

Big East Basketball Tournament - Cincinnati v Georgetown Getty Images

Entering the 2012-13 season there were high hopes for Cincinnati wing Sean Kilpatrick and the redshirt senior certainly didn’t disappoint, averaging 17.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for a team that reached the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season under head coach Mick Cronin. Kilpatrick’s production opened a door in the form of a spot on the United States World University Games roster, with whom he averaged 7.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

While having the opportunity to represent one’s country is certainly a positive, as are the games against solid competition, there’s also the concern once the college season begins that a player can get worn down. That’s something the Bearcats are looking to avoid with Kilpatrick, and the focus on keeping their leading scorer isn’t solely about fitness for Cincinnati.

“Five years is a long time to be in college basketball. What he did this summer with Team USA was great for his career,” Cronin said following the Bearcats’ first practices of the season Saturday (they held two sessions). “My concern is to not burn him out. We need to keep him fresh. There’s not much more he needs to learn about college basketball. We’ve got to get him help on the offensive end. Get him more open shots.

“He’s a guy I’ve got to make sure to keep his legs fresh all year because of what he went through this summer. This is his fifth year so I need to keep this fresh and keep this fun because you never have to worry about his intensity level.”

Kilpatrick finished the 2012-13 season with a possession percentage of 25.5% per kenpom.com, and of the other three Bearcats with a possession percentage above 20% two are gone (guard Cashmere Wright and forward JaQuon Parker). The returnee: senior forward Titus Rubles, who averaged 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in his first season at Cincinnati.

So who steps up offensively to help out Kilpatrick? Rubles would be one possibility (he’s also the team’s leading returnee in assists), and role players such as Ge’Lawn Guyn, Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas will need to take advantage of the minutes and scoring opportunities available now with Parker and Wright gone.

Sean Kilpatrick’s going to get his points, but Cincinnati returning to the NCAA tournament will depend on whether or not his teammates prove capable of helping shoulder the offensive load.