Sean Kilpatrick and his Cincinnati teammates were signing autographs Tuesday in Cincinnati's Fountain Square when two fans told Kilpatrick, "We can't wait until we see you play."
Kilpatrick can't wait, either.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound White Plains, N.Y., native sat out all of last year as a redshirt and is anxiously awaiting the start of practice Friday. Cincinnati opens its season Nov. 15 against Mount St. Mary's.
"I think it should be real fun," Kilpatrick said. "I've been waiting for this for almost a year and a half now, ever since prep school, actually."
Having lost Lance Stephenson to the NBA and Deonta Vaughn to graduation, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin will look to Kilpatrick to fill some of the scoring load virtually from the get go.
During a three-game trip to Canada last month, Kilpatrick averaged 14 points and dropped 17 in a victory over the University of Ottawa.
"He can score 10 points falling out of bed," Cronin said.
Kilpatrick averaged 28.4 points over a four-year prep career at White Plains High School and finished as the leading scorer in school history. He then spent a prep year at Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep.
But soon after Kilpatrick arrived at Cincinnati, Cronin approached him about redshirting his freshman season because he knew that Vaughn and Stephenson would get the bulk of the minutes and shots at shooting guard.
"I thought, 'Nah, no way,'" said Kilpatrick, 20. "That was my first reaction. But I spoke to my mom and my dad about everything with Coach Cronin and they figured it would be a good idea."
Asked if his feelings were hurt, Kilpatrick said: "No, not really. I'm just a person that takes sacrifices for the team. I didn't look at it like it was hurting my feelings. I took it with a grain of salt and said this can help me a lot more to work on my game and continue to keep working hard in the classroom."
One benefit of redshirting was that Kilpatrick got to watch and study Stephenson, a Brooklyn native with whom he was close. Despite the hype surrounding him, Stephenson managed to earn Big East rookie of the year honors.
"He taught me a little bit of the process of the whole college situation, about how the games are, to go into practice with the mindset of working hard and just stay level headed," Kilpatrick said.
For his part, Stephenson, now a rookie with the Indiana Pacers, believes Kilpatrick can step in and take over where he left off.
"I think he'll live up to the New York tradition, come in and play hard," Stephenson said earlier this year. "He knows how hard I work and he's just going to feed off it and try to get better, just like I did."
After two wins over top-25 teams last year at the Maui Invitational, the Bearcats saw expectations skyrocket. But the team never fulfilled its expectations and settled for an NIT bid instead of an NCAA tournament berth.
Stephenson relied heavily on his one-on-one game and Vaughn required a lot of screens to get his shot off. Vaughn, now playing in Poland, also never materialized into the leader many expected.
"Our parts didn't really fit," Cronin said.
This year's team features a likely future NBA player in 6-9 junior forward Yancy Gates but is more balanced overall with the likes of Kilpatrick, sophomores Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker, junior Dion Dixon and seniors Rashad Bishop, Larry Davis and Ibrahima Thomas.
"Now we're going to be a lot easier to coach offensively," Cronin said. "We have guys who like to move without the ball, guys who like to pass. We don't have anyone who needs the ball in their hands all the time. We'll be a lot smoother offensively."
And Cronin expects Kilpatrick to be a big part of that.
"There are a lot of thing I love about his game and his character and his makeup," Cronin said. "How much he loves basketball. He does all the little things well. He moves without the ball better than anybody I've coached since Francisco Garcia.
"His work ethic is second to none. He'll make the adjustment."