Cincinnati's Yancey Gates proves PIT is not just for NBA longshots

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Unlike the vast majority of players in the Portsmouth Invitational, Cincinnati's Yancy Gates stands a good chance of hearing his name called in June's NBA draft.

So why is the 6-foot-9, 245-pounder running up and down the court at Churchland High School against dozens of other college seniors, some of whom are dwarfed by his size in the post?

"There's still some things that I need to show that I've been working on," said Gates, who wants the assembled NBA scouts to see his ability to "get up and down the floor with the faster pace and my intensity trying to rebound, my athleticism, the way I can run. My college team kind of played a little slower pace. And my ability to guard, whether it's the four or the five, and just my ability and intensity to try to play hard each play."

Gates, projected as the 21st pick in the second round by DraftExpress, averaged 12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds as the Bearcats went 26-11 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

While Gates, ranked 19th in 2011-12's senior class by DraftExpress, helped lead Cincy to a remarkable season, that success is not the indelible image from his senior year.

Instead, Gates may still be most remembered for his part in a brawl in the Bearcats' game against crosstown rival Xavier on Dec. 10. Gates punched the Musketeers' Kenny Frease, bloodying Frease's face and drawing a six-game suspension.

Which raises the question of whether Gates is continuing to rebuild his image as much as showcase his rebounding at the PIT.

"That's hard to say," Gates said. "All I can do about that is just keep trying to be a good person, which I am, and just show that on and off the court."

Gates said the Bearcats got past the ugly incident by sticking together.

"We were so close as a team and a family off and on the court," he said. "And the way that I came into practice during my suspension — I still practiced just as hard as I did while I was playing. That also helped me be able to jump right back into the flow when it was time for me to come back and play.

"It gave me that sense of urgency, to come out and play every game like it was the last one."

Gates' presence, and that of some of the better-known seniors in the 60th annual PIT, speaks volumes to some observers.

NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake is pleased to see players such as Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor, ranked No. 23 in the senior class by DraftExpress.

"He didn't have to be here," Blake said. "He's out here playing and showing the teams that he wants to play."

Chris Ekstrand, longtime NBA insider and former publisher of the NBA Draft Guide, doesn't understand why other seniors don't take the same route instead of declining PIT invitations.

"Why guys would pass up that opportunity that the PIT is offering them has always been beyond me," Ekstrand said "The seniors like (North Carolina's) Tyler Zeller who don't need to play here — that's literally two or three seniors this year, and it's been two or three seniors the last few years."

It's safe to say Gates, who had nine rebounds and seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in his Portsmouth Partnership team's Thursday night game, is not flying under any scouts' radar, including a pair of European evaluators whose rapid-fire Spanish contained the discernible words "University of Cincinnati" during Thursday's game.

Gates is optimistic that he'll impress an NBA team enough to be drafted, and he hopes his PIT play only improves those chances.

"It's still a long summer," he said. "I've got a lot of work to put in. There's been some good feedback, and even the criticism are things that I can improve on easily.

"It makes my confidence a lot higher."

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