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Bearcat Bound: Roman wing Daniel Skillings picks Cincinnati

09/23/2021, 3:30pm EDT
By Joseph Santoliquito

Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

In the end, it came down to a connection. Who did Dan Skillings Jr. connect with better? Over the weekend during the City of Basketball Love Interstate Shootout, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Roman Catholic senior star said Cincinnati, Miami, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech were his final five.

Roman Catholic wing Daniel Skillings (above) committed to Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

He had his choices: Pitt coach Jeff Capel, North Carolina State’s Kevin Keatts, Virginia Tech’s Mike Young, Miami’s legendary Jim Larranaga or Cincinnati’s young Wes Miller.

On Thursday, youth prevailed. Skillings chose one — Cincinnati and its new head coach.

“Coach Wes is a really good coach and they made me feel love, and they made me feel welcome,” said Skillings, who averaged 19.7 points and 8.1 rebounds a game in the COVID-truncated season last year for 10-2 Roman Catholic. “Cincinnati has a great program over there and coach Wes is a really good coach who is new and young. I know he has a bright future ahead of him, and I want to be a part of that. The fan base made me feel even more loved.

“They have two or three managers that stay on top of their players to make sure your academics are there, and they have 100-percent success with their graduation rate. They really sold me. Coach Wes runs an up-and-down style and a free way to play, where I fit in perfectly. They want to play shooting guard, and they’re going to allow me to bring up the ball.

“I think the deciding factor was how much support I had and how deep inside coach Wes had my back and would get me to the next level. If I fail, I know Coach Wes would pick me up and not give up on me.”

A key into making this decision now in September allows Skillings to place his complete focus on getting Roman Catholic a Catholic League title and PIAA state championship this coming season.

“It’s what I wanted to do, so committing early allows me to keep focused and get back on the grind, back to thinking like I’m an underdog,” Skillings said. “It’s the way I think. It helps me with my senior year. I don’t have to concern myself with the phone calls and all the visits. It gives me a lot of satisfaction where I came from. I came from nothing and worked my ass off for this.”

Roman Catholic coach Chris McNesby, who served as the Cahillites' coach from 2009-16, re-took the position in May after former head coach Matt Griffin left for an assistant's job at D-I Albany. Already, the two-time PCL and PIAA state championship coach has seen similarities between Skillings and players like Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and others that he coached in his first run.

"He's just as dynamic as any of the guys that were high-level guys," McNesby said. "Athletic, naturally gifted from the perimeter, he can shoot it, handle it, runs the floor really well. You can see his potential to play at a high level."

Skillings (above) reeled in nearly 30 scholarship offers during June and July after a big junior year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Miller was named head coach at Cincinnati on April 14, 2021. He comes to the Bearcats after being the head coach at UNC Greensboro for a decade, where he built the Spartans into perennial championship and NCAA Tournament contenders. That Miller was named as’s No. 1 Coach Under 40 in May 2020 and also made The Athletic’s 40 Under 40 list a year ago caught Skillings’ attention.

The Bearcats had been successful under current UCLA head coach Mick Cronin, who led Cincinnati to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments (2011-19). They went 20-10 under John Brannen in 2019-20 and then 12-10 this past season, but Brannen was fired on April 9 under a haze of mass transfers that caused a school investigation into his behavior.

Skillings said the decision came down between Cincinnati and North Carolina State. He said he loved the campus of both schools and both programs. He just felt a deeper bond with Miller.

“Both have great programs,” Skillings said. “I just thought my connection with Coach Wes was better. I’m going to college for free and this is a blessing. I’m going to have a lot of fun my senior year. I can’t wait.”

Skillings exploded this summer. Seven months ago, the ultra-athletic wing who plays some point guard didn’t have a college offer—not one. As July closed, he had close to 30.


(Decision Talk: Listen to CoBL's Josh Verlin discuss Skillings' commitment with Zack Coomer of the Cincy Slangin' podcast)


As September closes, it’s Cincinnati, which will be making the leap from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12, joining the conference possibly as soon as 2023, along with BYU, Houston and the University of Central Florida.

That was also a major selling point to Skillings he said over the weekend.

“They’re going to the Big 12 in 2022 and leaving the American Conference, so that’s a big step for them,” Skillings said. “Coach Miller is a down-to-earth guy. They have a great program and support system. They will be there for you, and they have a great support system within all of their sports teams.

“The coaching staff is great and they all trust each other and work well as a team. There’s no hate. It’s all love.”

Skillings spent last weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina, visiting the North Carolina State campus. The Wolfpack are coached by Keatts, whose entering his fifth season. The Wolfpack went 14-11 last year.

“It was really nice down there and I really enjoyed it,” Skillings said. “It’s down there in ‘The Triangle,’ with Duke and North Carolina and the games are really packed. It’s really crazy down there. Coach Keatts is a really, really good coach and really, really good guy and he gives you opportunities to be great. He keeps it real with you. It’s a high level ACC.

“Finally, it just felt right at Cincinnati. I bonded with the team there. I know I made the right decision. They sprint in transition and they allow a lot more free play, where I feel good. I feel Coach Wes will work with me. I just know this; no more visits and I don’t have to keep on answering phone calls.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.

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