This is an article that I would have loved to have completed on Sunday night but for the first time since National Signing Day I had so much content that it was just impossible to do. Sunday was Media Day and the first Red and White Scrimmage of the 2014/15 season. I had the opportunity to spend four hours with the team yesterday and it was great to be back at the Yum Center.
This is going to be another exciting year, but one that will be defined by a young group of Cardinals. For the first time in a long time this team doesn’t have that solid veteran foundation to fall back on and will rely on guys stepping up to create their own legacy. Losing a group of guys that were the winningest in program history will have an impact, but what they left behind will hopefully give this years team momentum to build upon. In successful programs tradition never graduates. The Louisville Basketball program is rich and vibrant because a lot of guys over the years have cared enough to give their very best. There are many chapters left to be written and now it’s time for this 2014/15 group to write theirs.
Montrezl, Wayne and Chris are the captains this season. Out of these guys Wayne is the only one who has been around the program for four years. Wayne and Montrezl are the only guys left from the national championship team. I think that Wayne and Chris are the lead by example kind of guys and Montrezl is the more vocal leader. Talking with them on Sunday I think they are aware of how important it is that they provide leadership for this young team.
Talking with all of the guys during media day I can tell you that they are all good kids. It’s going to be fun watching them grow into the program and to see how far each of them take their game over the next four years.
The very first public scrimmages of the season are always fun to watch. It’s great to see how much the returning guys have improved and great to see the potential that the new guys bring to the team.
-Montrezl Harrell has a jump shot. I don’t know how much we’ll see of the big fella outside of the arc but he showed in the scrimmage yesterday that he is capable of knocking it down. It will make him tougher to guard and he was already a match-up nightmare for most teams. As far as his energy level Mr Enthusiasm Personified still has a lot of it. He was also a vocal leader on Sunday and that will be very important going forward.
-Wayne Blackshear is ready for a great senior season. No nagging injuries for the first time in his career and he was making plays all over the court on Sunday. He showed that he is capable of playing with power and finesse making plays both ways. I think he looks more physically ready than he’s ever been also. Not only could he be the break out player to propel this Louisville team but he may be the breakout player in college basketball this season.
-Chris Jones is a no nonsense speedy, hard nosed guard. His gritty character comes out when he is on the basketball court. If you are in front of him he wants to beat you, and when he beats you he will make it count with an assist or a score. He is going to be the spark plug for the Cardinals offense this season and with his quickness be a headache for opposing teams on defense. He’s got that Memphis moxie and the teams we play this year will learn quick what that means.
-Terry Rozier is the total package. If you are a coach this is the kind of kid you hope will cross your path in your career. He has the ability and aptitude that is rarely seen at the college level. He was the best player on the court Sunday and will be the best player on the court in most of the games this season.
-Mango Mathiang has got a lot of game but just doesn’t know it yet. He is a soft spoken and humble young man who needs to learn to be more confident when he steps between the lines. On Sunday I seen that out of him on a few plays but it needs to be every play. He reminds me so much of Gorgui and his game is taking a very similar path. This will be a very good season for him and we’ll need his production especially on defense.
-Anton Gill is now physically ready and he looked more confident on Sunday. He will be a very important part of this team and will be called upon to rest Terry. I’m confident in his offensive ability but his consistency on defense will be key.
-Anas Mahmoud “The Big Egyptian” quickly became a fan favorite on Sunday. He was the biggest surprise of the day and even shocked the coaches. A lot of folks had thought that it may be a while before we got to see this guy get any playing time, but after yesterday I don’t think we’ll have to wait long. This team is desperate to find a solid 8th or 9th contributor and Anas might be that guy. He has great court presence and has great hands. His timing and positioning is also very good. Seems to always be in the right spot at the right time. For a big guy his ball handling and footwork is also very good. Very likable kid and is going to be fun to cheer for over the next four years.
-Matz Stockman “The Big Norwegian” will take a little longer to adjust to the college game than his foreign counterpart. Matz is another guy that will have to learn to be more aggressive and will have to learn to leave his very humble personality on the sideline. He will have to get stronger and also gain more weight. Very excited to see how he develops. The possibility to see he and Anas in the line-up at the same time is also very exciting unless you are an opposing team.
-Quentin Snider showed a lot of moxie playing in front of the hometown crowd for the first time in a Louisville uniform. He has that added pressure that the other freshman don’t. Talking with him yesterday he’s very happy to be a Cardinal and really wants to represent his hometown well. Coach Pitino is adjusting his jump shot so he’ll struggle with consistency, but I do expect him to see some minutes giving Chris a breather.
-Chinanu Onuaku is the most physically improved of the Freshman. His transformation into that college ready body is apparent, but now his game will have to catch up. He will have to adjust to the speed of the college game especially on the defensive end. He might end up seeing the most time out of the freshman. Those 10 rebounds he grabbed on Sunday was a very good start.
-Shaqquan Aaron is the guy who has the biggest upside of the freshman class. He’s got all of the skill in the world but has to get Stronger and get his body more college ready.
-Jaylen Johnson hasn’t been around long enough to know anything about. Don’t think he’s made a very good first impression on coach Pitino who said on Sunday that Jaylen lived in his own universe. Hope I’m wrong but he didn’t leave a very good first impression on me either.
-David Levitch “Levitch Nation” will be in full effect again this season. Coach Pitino said on Sunday that David was the most improved player on the team. Good kid to cheer for when he see’s his time.
-Trent Gilbert The “HENDO” lookalike has some big shoes to fill to be like Tim, but he is a kid that comes from a solid program and will give his very best effort everyday. I think Trent will get his chances in the next four years to hit some of those Hendo like shots.
-Dillon Avare hit a three point shot on Sunday and regardless of his size he can shoot the ball from deep. He’s a good kid who might see clean-up minutes.
-Akoy Agau did not play on Sunday and has been out due to a sports hernia. Coach Pitino said that they have took their time with him because they are going to need him when the season arrives.
It was great spending four hours with the 2014/15 Cardinals on Sunday and I can tell you that we have another great group of young men to get behind this season.