Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bobbitt good as his words

UC's talkative leader sets example by actions

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tony Bobbitt is known for his chatty demeanor and for his play off the bench. He's Conference USA's Sixth Player of the Year.
Enquirer file/ERNEST COLEMAN

When Tony Bobbitt was told by reporters after the University of Cincinnati's 68-65 loss March 4 at DePaul that coach Bob Huggins said he wished he had left him in Cincinnati, Bobbitt paused for a second to think about his response.

"Is that what he said?" Bobbitt asked.

At that point, Bobbitt, who had scored only three points and missed seven of eight shots against the Blue Demons, could have lashed out at his coach. Or he could have issued a "no comment" and gone off to sulk for the rest of the season. Instead, he swallowed his pride and said, "He's right."

When the Bearcats got back to Cincinnati, he apologized to his teammates for his bad attitude in practice leading up to the game.

"I told them face-to-face in the dorm," Bobbitt said. "I told all of them it was my fault and I'm sorry for what happened and it will never happen again. They said, 'All right, T. Let's see it.' In this program, it's not all about talk. It's about action. And they've seen it. So it's fine."

Two days after that game in Chicago, Bobbitt backed up his words by scoring 20 points against Memphis, including the last five, in an 83-79 victory that enabled UC to clinch a share of the Conference USA championship.

Then after taking a shot to the groin that forced him to leave the court, Bobbitt, a 6-foot-4 senior guard from Daytona Beach, Fla., returned in the C-USA Tournament championship game Saturday to convert a key 3-pointer and a breakaway layup to seal the win for the Bearcats in their rematch against DePaul.

On a team with quiet leaders such as Field Williams and Jason Maxiell, Bobbitt has emerged as the public face and voice of the Bearcats, even though he's not a starter.

He's the team's unofficial media spokesman and a player who's not afraid to get on his teammates when he sees something that needs to be addressed.

"If I jump a guy, the guy can understand why," Bobbitt said. "When I mess up, they tell me little things. You just agree with it and go on with it. It's about helping each other. When I saw things, I just called it the way I saw it. That's an everyday thing for me.

"I enjoy my teammates. It's all about liking each other and wanting to win with each other. That's one reason why I've been able to help this team and lead this team."

It helps that Bobbitt has such a good sense of humor, and that he delivers his lines with so much sincerity.

"He's a guy who's always going to keep things fun and keep everything energized," said guard James White. "There's never going to be a dull moment in practice or anywhere else. He's always talking but that's a good quality about him."

Indeed, there's rarely a time when Bobbitt doesn't have something to say. He's been known to sit at an airport gate and chatter away non-stop, his teammates serving as his willing audience.

"Every now and then when we take a bus trip, he might shut up for a second or two," said forward Eric Hicks. "Then we're all like, 'Man, the mouth done shut up.' Then he starts it back up."

Bobbitt wasn't quite as fun-loving last year when he briefly left the team in February. But when he returned he stood up and took the blame for what he did, vowing to make good on his mistake.

This season, determined to make the most of his final season of college basketball, he completed a transformation that has seen him average 13.3 points per game. He leads the team with 48 steals, was named C-USA Sixth Player of the Year and was a third-team all-league selection.

As the Bearcats enter the NCAA Tournament, he has emerged as the player most likely and most willing to take a shot in a crucial situation.

He has also offered an example to the younger players of how to deal with Huggins' criticism without taking it personally.

"Life to me is not about getting up on the wrong side of the bed," Bobbitt said. "Other than practice, that's the only time I get upset. You catch me at home, I'm laid-back, man. My teammates will tell you that. I'm still 'T' Bobbitt, loud and fun.

"It was tough for me last year, but I overcame that. Look at this season. It's fun for me. I've had a good season, wouldn't you think?"


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