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Wes Miller reflects on first year with UC: 'We have a long way to go'

'There are some things I'm proud of, but if you ask where we are today, I’m not happy.'
Wes Miller
Posted at 10:00 AM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 16:18:08-04

CINCINNATI — Year two of the “Wes Miller era” is approaching for the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball program. In his first season as UC's head coach, Miller’s team posted an 18-15 overall record (7-11 in conference play).

“We had some good moments. Did we play night in and night out at the standard that we expect to or that you have to at this place? No," Miller said in a one-on-one interview with WCPO. "There are some aspects of year one that I’m proud of. There are some things we have a burning fire to address and improve, and that is what we are doing every single day."

When asked how far away the team's culture is from where Miller wants it to be, the coach said the team's constantly evolving and working on its mentality and day-to-day approach.

“If you ask where we are today, I’m not happy," Miller said. "We have a long way to go and a lot of things to work on."

One of the aspects Miller and his staff are most focused on improving is piecing together a stronger roster.

“Build a roster that made more sense in terms of how it fits together," Miller said. "There were times that we looked on the floor last year, we were just really small position by position ... we wanted to make sure we got longer and more dynamic physically, I think we’ve done that, we’ve added more depth to our team. We wanted to add more offensive firepower."

Improving the roster is imperative for Cincinnati beyond this year. After the 2022-2023 academic year, the Bearcats will be joining the BIG 12.

“When you look at this BIG 12 move, certainly are we preparing for it? Yes. Are we aware of it in our recruiting? Yes. But it’s not going to change how we approach this upcoming season," Miller said.

Recruiting has been a hot topic in the college sports world, especially with the current frenzy of conference realignment.

“Great players want to play at Cincinnati. Great players have played at Cincinnati," Miller said. "There is a foundational component of being here, I don’t care what league we are in. We feel we can recruit and attract the best players. Being in the BIG 12 and the move to the BIG 12 has affected recruiting positively. There is no doubt about that."

Recruiting for the BIG 12 goes beyond just Cincinnati basketball. Miller said he often talks to his staff and players about the success of the school's football program and head coach Luke Fickell. The two have developed a strong relationship.

“I give him a lot of credit for that. I got the job late last spring. It was maybe my second day here on the job. It was about an hour before his spring game, and I realize that is a big deal for a college football coach, and he is popping into my office to say hello and spend some time," Miller said. "He and his wife had our staff over with his staff to his house, those were early efforts but he has made consistent efforts to make this an easier transition to build a relationship with me. It’s meant the world to me."

One aspect that is unique to the basketball program is the Crosstown Shootout. Cincinnati and Xavier’s rivalry game is returning to Fifth Third Arena in front of fans for the first time since 2018.

“It’s not just a game, it’s like a week-long event," Miller said. "It’s like the kid in you. You want to be a part of those types of things. I knew that when I took the job — experiencing it reiterates it even more. I wasn’t pleased with how we played (last year). Just the electricity and the atmosphere on the road was something, it will be even better here at Fifth Third."

The Bearcats will enter this season returning four of their regular starters and six newcomers this season.