Viktor Lakhin has been a pleasant surprise and a pretty substantial welcoming gift for first-year University of Cincinnati men's basketball coach Wes Miller.
Lakhin, who missed all of his freshman campaign for the Bearcats last season with a knee injury, is averaging eight points and 4.5 rebounds in just more than 15 minutes per game off the bench for Miller through the first two contests. Lakhin also has three blocks and three steals.
But more important than stats, the 6-foot-11, 245-pound Russian is healthy, has shown lateral quickness on both ends of the court and superb passing ability and vision, linking up with Ody Oguama on a lob at the rim Saturday in UC's 73-68 win over Georgia at Fifth Third Arena.
Lakhin missed a 3-point attempt toward the end of the first half against the Bulldogs. Instead of being stuck on the air ball, Lakhin followed his shot and found his way into the paint. Oguama collected Lakhin's miss and threw the ball back up. Oguama's attempt bounced off the rim, but Lakhin's movement without the ball allowed him to slam home Oguama's attempt and power the Bearcats to a 14-0 run.
“He’s terrific," Miller said of Lakhin. "... He’s a freshman and does freshman stuff, but he also does stuff that you can’t teach and you can’t coach. Boy, he’s going to be special. He has a great work ethic and he listens and he learns. He’s just going to keep getting better and better and better and better. ... He's going to have a tremendous career here."
Lakhin will look to continue his hot start and help lift Cincinnati to its third straight win Tuesday when the Bearcats host Alabama A&M, a historically Black university.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena.
TV/Radio: ESPN+/WLW-AM (700)
Series info: This is the second meeting between Alabama A&M and Cincinnati. The Bearcats defeated the Bulldogs 85-53 on Nov. 14, 2019, at Fifth Third Arena.
Alabama A&M (1-1)
Coach: Dylan Howard, fourth season (20-59)
Offense: 64.5 ppg
Defense: 71.5 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Cameron Tucker (G, 6’1', 4.5 apg)
Garrett Hicks (G, 6’, 13.5 ppg)
Dailin Smith (G/F, 6’6", 7.5 ppg)
Jalen Johnson (F, 6’7", 14 ppg)
EJ Williams (C, 6'11", 9.5 ppg) (Cincinnati native, Middletown High School)
Coach: Wes Miller, first season (2-0)
Offense: 69 ppg
Defense: 55.5 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
David DeJulius (G, 6’, 9.5 ppg)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6’3”, 4.5 apg)
John Newman III (G, 6’5”, 6.5 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7", 11 ppg)
Abdul Ado (F, 6’11”, 13.2 mpg)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Through the first two games, the Alabama A&M junior leads the team in points per game (14) and rebounds per game (8.5). The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Indianapolis native has also made 86% (6-for-7) of his free-throw attempts. Johnson had four points, three steals and a pair rebounds off the bench against the Bearcats two seasons ago.
The Cincinnati native and former Moeller High School standout has been a model of consistency early on for Miller and the Bearcats. Davenport opened the season with an 11-point, eight-rebound performance against Evansville. The preseason second-team All-American Athletic Conference selection followed that with 11 points and seven rebounds against Georgia on Saturday. Davenport, who is shooting 83% (5-for-6) from the foul line, is expected to be Cincinnati's biggest and most consistent offensive threat this season. So far, the 6-foot-7 junior has been just that.
KEY TO THE GAME
A strength of this Bearcats team early on has been its depth. Eleven different players took the court for Miller on Saturday and 10 different players scored. That depth is even more importantly defensively, as Cincinnati will look to throw waves of bodies at Alabama A&M. As long as players stay selfless and continue to buy in, Miller will have a deep, experienced team when the Bearcats wrap up their nonconference slate and begin AAC play.
KenPom.com: Alabama A&M (329); Cincinnati (107)
RPI: Alabama A&M (282); Cincinnati (32)