Kevin Ware Leaves Louisville Sunday

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It wasn’t always perfect and his time at Louisville had its rough patches, but in the end he did have a positive impact on the program and the city of Louisville. His perseverance through one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of sports served as an inspiration to not only his team, but for people all over the country.

His drama played out to a national audience and he was embraced by so many folks and even the President of the United States became involved. Kevin has served as a great ambassador over the past year and has give back to the city and those that stood behind him.

Kevin made his announcement a few weeks ago that he would be attending Georgia State University. Kevin has said that his family needs him right now and he wanted to be at home. In an interview tonight at the Derby Festival Classic he said that he will be officially leaving Louisville next Sunday. I hope that Kevin has all the success he deserves in his future. And he will always be a Cardinal. L1C4

Rick Bozich speaks with Kevin Ware about leaving Louisville:

A MonsTREZL Gesture

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It has been a pretty eventful week here in the Cardinal Nation. We got news on Monday that Montrezl Harrell would return for his junior season. Montrezl is another in a long line of recent players that really get the concept of belonging to a community. He considers himself not only a player for the University of Louisville, but has become a member of the Cardinal family. On Wednesday Montrezl did something pretty amazing and gave back to that community.

9-year-old Cruz Colvin is a Louisville boy who is fighting long odds for a bone marrow match. So far his doctors have found just one potential matching donor out of 14 million bone marrow donors. The Louisville third graders family and friends are recruiting the public to be potential donors especially the Hispanic community. On Wednesday Montrezl not only took the time to sign an autograph for Cruz but he also took the time to join the National Bone Marrow Registry.

What an awesome gesture from this awesome young man. Folks we have been really blessed with some outstanding athletes coming through the program over the last few years. At the end of the day making a difference in people’s lives is what matters most. Our student athletes are winning on the field of play and in life. Way to go Montrezl! If you would like to follow Trez’s awesome gesture and get on the donor list just click on the hyper link in the article for more information. You may be able to help Cruz.

Three Louisville Signees Headline Derby Festival Classic

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Louisville 2014 signees Quentin Snider, Chinanu Onuaku and Jaylen Johnson will headline the Derby Festival Classic for Louisville fans in the annual event held at Freedom Hall this Friday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m. Each of these guys had great senior seasons and will be entering the Louisville program with high praise.

Quentin Snider leaves Ballard High School as their all-time leading scorer and was named Mr Basketball in the state of Kentucky. Jaylen Johnson was named a Mr Basketball finalist in Michigan. The senior at Ypsilanti Michigan High School averaged 13.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.5 blocked shots a game. He had 8 double-doubles this season. Chinanu Onuaku, won a Maryland private school championship and was named MVP of the state tournament this season. All of these guys are winners and know what it takes to be champions. That seems to be a theme as of late with Louisville basketball recruiting and the future looks very bright.

Some of the nation’s finest high school basketball talent takes the court at the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic. First held in 1973, the Classic is the oldest high school all-star game in the nation and is known for showcasing players who’ve moved on to stardom at the collegiate and professional levels. Former players include Jamal Mashburn, Moses Malone, Rex Chapman, Pervis Ellison, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Darrell Griffith, Derek Anderson, Anfernee Hardaway and Michael Beasley.

For tickets call (800) 745-3000 or the Freedom Hall box office at (502) 367-5144. If you can’t make it to the game Good news for Derby Classic Fans: will livestream the game Friday night at 7.

Try to make it out to support our future Cards!

Another Year Of “Enthusiasm Personified”

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Back last summer during a basketball game that Montrezl Harrell was playing in for the U-19 USA team (where he won gold) the announcer of the game used “Enthusiasm Personified” to describe Montrezl on a basketball court. I haven’t heard anything better to describe what he does on a basketball floor since. In my 30 plus years of watching college basketball I haven’t seen anyone with a motor like he has. Today an ordinary Monday became an extraordinary one when Montrezl tweeted out the he was bringing his “Enthusiasm Personified” back to Louisville for his Junior season.

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Coming into his college career some thought he would be in position limbo, but with Pitino’s style of play and his physical growth he has become a nightmare match-up for a small forward and a unique match-up for a bigger guy. He has shown in just the last couple of years that he is developing his game more in the post and also improving his ball skills. All the while taking advantage of the most high percentage shot in the game of basketball, “The Slam Dunk”. This kid has all the raw materials and when he plays he goes hard, real hard “Enthusiasm Personified”. With that Enthusiasm Montrezl has soared to the top of the dunk record books and now resides with the likes of “The Doctors of Dunk”, “Dr. Dunkenstein” and many more who have rocked the rim during their time as Cardinals.

The announcement of his return will all but guarantee that Louisville will have a new dunk leader after next season and it makes our Cardinals a legit contender for the National Title again next season. In a day where kids are leaving school early for that quick paycheck Louisville players have become the standard for doing just the opposite. It is great to see kids be able to embrace the college sports life and it’s great to see them really live the Louisville First, Cardinals Forever motto. Today’s announcement again proves that it’s not just words we speak but has become something real.

I don’t really know how you thank someone for turning down millions of dollars to play for your favorite college team, but I guess it would look something like this:

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Thank you for coming back for one more run Montrezl!.. Can’t wait to see you dominate the front-court in the ACC next season. L1C4..! Go Cards!

-Montrezl Harrell talks about his decision to come back:

Montrezl Harrell “A Year In Dunks”

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(Photo “The Intimidator” by TJ Parks)

We all watched this past season as Montrezl dunked his way into the Louisville record books. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a player go to the basket so aggressively and I enjoyed ever minute of it. Most speculate that Montrezl will take his dunks to the league next season, but it would really be nice if he’d give us one more year of “Enthusiasm Personified”.

Until then for our viewing pleasure Every Montrezl Harrell Dunk of the 2013-14 Season (HD)
By TheLouisvilleShow:

Never Too Early To Look Ahead

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So the college basketball season is over and it’s never to early to look towards next season. The Cardinals have a very good recruiting class coming in next season and maybe one of Coach Pitino’s best hauls since becoming the Louisville head man. It is considered #4 by ESPN, #9 by 247Sports, #8 by Scout, #7 by Rivals and he has done a very good job at addressing all the needs in this next group. He’s got a great back-court duo with Shaqquan Aaron, and Quentin Snider. Aaron has tremendous playmaking and scoring ability at 6-8. He could end up the biggest star of the group. Snider is also a great scorer and has a lot of ability. He will be one of those long term impact players that Louisville fans have grown accustomed to.

This group will also feature some great long term impact players in the front-court with Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku. These guys fit Coach Pitino’s system ideally. Onuaku has rapidly improved and is very skilled for a big man. Once he drops some weight, he will make a big impact. Johnson brings a lot of intangibles to the team, and is a great baseline player. Then we have the twin towers with 7-foot-2 Matz Stockman and 7-foot-1 Anas Osama Mahmoud. These guys are a bit of a mystery to most people on the left side of the Atlantic, but apparently, they are loaded with potential. You can’t teach size and these guys have that.

We have a solid group of guys coming back next year as well. In the back-court we will have Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Anton Gill getting most of the minutes. Jones improved drastically towards the end of this season and once he became more accustomed to coach Pitino’s system was a different player. That will only get better as he has another summer to adapt. Terry Rozier will be a star in his sophomore season. This guy is gonna make some noise in college basketball and the ACC. Anton Gill will be another major contributor on the offensive end of the floor, but will have to get the defense down. Returning is also the next Tim Henderson spark plug off the bench in David Levitch. He is gonna hit some big shots before he is done, and is a great kid to cheer for.

With the news of Co-Captain Montrezl Harrell returning it adds even more depth in the Louisville front-court and I don’t need to tell you what kind of impact he will make next season. He makes the Cardinals a legitimate contender for another National Title run. Not that they wouldn’t have been anyway but Montrezl guarantees it. Having this much depth in the front-court will also give the young guys more time to develop and get comfortable with the college game. The Cards will also have Wayne Blackshear, Mango Mathiang and Akoy Agau returning. Wayne is a real big question mark at this point in my opinion. Will he finally breakout and be the 5* All-American we have expected since he arrived? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m behind him 100%, and being a team captain next season may help his confidence also. Mango is the most promising of this group and his upside and potential is off the charts. If he adds the weight this summer he’s going to have a huge year, and be a beast in the middle of that Pitino defense with his shot blocking ability. I have confidence that Akoy will get some solid minutes next year also. He is a skilled guy. He just needs to keep his attitude positive.

Some of the different sports sites and talking heads have already came out with their early top 25 rankings:

-Dan Hanner #14

-Jon Rothstein CBS Sports/Louisville #11

-Athlon Sports/Louisvill #14

-CBS #21

-NBC Unranked

-Bleacher Report/ Louisville #21 #12

I look for these rankings to be adjusted with the news of Harrell’s return. My guess is that Louisville will be firmly in the top 10 of every pre-season ranking. We could possibly crack the top 5 in some of them also.

This season has shown us all that it’s really hard to predict how a season will turn out, but I know I’m looking forward to it. It will be fun to see how all the new guys mold with the returning guys and how the returning guys step up to fill the shoes of those that left the program in such great shape. See you in 2014-15 Cardinal Fans..

Cards Will Renew Old Rivalry At Jimmy V Classic

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The Jimmy V Classic is one of my favorite events of the college basketball season. No Championship is on the line, and no tournament berths are at stake. Instead, the basketball world comes together for one night to celebrate the life of one its own, and help to save the lives of many more. It is rare that there is a charity where 100% of everything you contribute goes to research and the Jimmy V Foundation does just that. They received an endowment which allows them to give all of the donations to fight against cancer, not to pay bills. As I am sure is the case with many of you, a lot of people I know have been touched by cancer including my family. Some have fought and won, others have fought and lost. I hope for a day when we can eliminate the second group and everyone fights and wins. The Jimmy V Classic has been played since 1995.

Today Per ESPN, the Indiana-Louisville game for Jimmy V Classic will be the 2nd game of night at 9:00 on December 9th at MSG in NYC. The game will be on ESPN and follows Villanova vs Maryland. The last time the Cards were in this event was back in 2006. That was a time when Louisville’s luck wasn’t as good in The Garden as it is nowadays. They played Arizona in their first and only appearance in the Classic losing that game 72-65.

I’m looking forward to this old rivalry being renewed when Louisville makes its return to MSG for the V Classic. The Cards and Hoosiers will do battle for the first time since playing a game on February 1st 2003. It was the Cards that came out victorious in that game 95-76. The game will mark the 17th meeting between the two schools in history with IU holding a 10-6 advantage. The teams have met three times since 1990 with IU holding a 3-1 edge in those games. The game is not part of an ongoing series but is instead a one-game contract between the two schools. Coach Pitino has been working hard to get a home and home series with the Hoosiers but that hasn’t came about yet. Let’s all hope that the game on December 9th will spark up the old feud enough to make this a annual meeting.

With this news today Louisville’s non-conference slate for the 2014 season is looking like its going to be loaded. They are set to open up next season with a game against Pitino Jr’s squad Minnesota in Perto Rico, then the game against IU, Kentucky and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Yup Louisville college basketball 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting time indeed.

The End Of An Era

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Some college sports fans live a lifetime without getting to see their beloved team reach the pinnacle. For 25 years I was starting to think that I may never get to watch my Louisville Cardinals win a National Championship, but in the last four years I got to see that and so much more.

I got to watch great young men lay it on the line for their university, their fans and their city every time they took the floor. I got to watch young men start at the bottom and work their way to legendary status and I got to watch a basketball program transcend into greatness. I’ve enjoyed moments over the last four years that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. I am so grateful for that and words can’t express the gratitude that I feel.

This past weekend was such a low point for me and I have grieved and sulked since walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium. But when I took away the part where we lost to our arch rival it allowed me to put things in perspective. What a great ride we have been on as Louisville Basketball fans and while it is the end of an era those who leave it behind have done so at a level much greater than when they got here. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The group of guys who wore the uniform the last four years have set a new standard for the ones coming in next to maintain. As a fan I have learned that it’s not where you start, but where you finish. It is the End of an Era, but the start of another. I can’t wait to see what the next one holds.

An awesome video was just put out today and it captures a lot of those great moments and really put a big smile on my face today. Hope it does the same for you:

Louisville Basketball- “The End Of An Era”
ByEvan Westendorf

Cards Lose The Battle, But Still In The Fight

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(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

On Friday night in Indianapolis the 46th chapter of the Battle of the Bluegrass was written. For the 32nd time it was Kentucky who walked away with the victory 74-69. The Wildcats now lead the all-time series 32-15 (4-2 in NCAA). The Cardinals are 1-6 against their rivals since John Calipari was hired as their coach. With the win the Wildcats advance to the Elite 8, and the Cards season will come to a close after a great run of basketball that has included 2 Big East Titles, AAC Title, 2 Final Fours, and a National Championship. ”We celebrated an awful lot the last three years,” Pitino said. ”We’re going to be very gracious in this defeat because we’ve had a lot of celebrations, and it’s the end of an era for us, for a lot of us. So it’s something that we’re certainly going to miss.”

The stage was set for what was billed as one of the biggest games in this series as it featured both the 2012 and 2013 College Basketball National Champions competing against each other in the Sweet 16. Our Cardinals led most of the way, but It was a pretty competitive game throughout. I think the script went a different way than what most of us expected. Kentucky was supposed to be the young team that lost focus down the stretch especially with one of their best defenders in the locker room. But that’s not what happen. It was our veteran Cardinals that started taking bad shots, making bad decisions, and struggled to put the ball in the basket in the final minutes of the game.

In the final eight minutes of the game, Louisville scored two points in the paint on 1-of-5 shooting and scored just three points in the final three minutes. The Cardinals missed 10 of their 23 free throws while Kentucky was 22 of 27 at the line, and made five of its last six. Our Cards also got beat up on the boards 37-29 and that led to 8 second chance points. These stats are what sealed the victory for the Wildcats.

Luke with 19 points, Russ with 23 points, Montrezl with 15 points, 8 rebounds Stephan with his hustle/effort and Chris with 6 points all went down swinging. These starters and especially our seniors left their hearts on the floor Friday night and gave it all they had like they’ve done so many times in the past.
I was also very impressed with Mango who had 4 rebounds, 3 points, and 2 blocked shots. I am extremely optimistic about this kids future. His play has been trending upward all season and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store next season.
Wayne’s struggles continue and my comments about him are starting to be like a broken record. He played 17 minutes and had 1 rebound, 3 points, 1 assist and 1 steal. He started his Cardinal career as one of the most anticipated players ever and will now head into his senior season with very minimal expectations. Great kid but don’t know if he’ll ever get it figured out again.

The battle was lost on Friday night and I know every Cardinal fan feels the same way I have all day. While frustrated about being 1-6 to our rivals just remember Cardinal fans that we are headed into the exciting new challenge of the ACC, have the #4 ranked recruiting class and still have an excellent program. The battle has been lost for now, but the Cardinal fight lives on. I’m looking forward to another great group of young men coming into the program and hopefully we can send them away in four years like we did with the seniors this year “Champions”. L1C4

Louisville’s Russ Smith after a loss to UK in NCAA tourney:

Luke Hancock after Louisville’s loss to Kentucky in the NCAAs:

Stephan Van Treese on U of L’s loss to Kentucky:

Montrezl Harrell on his season and his future:

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The Beak Sweet 16 Breakdown: Cards vs Cats

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This week we have flown our flags a little higher and wore our gear with that little extra boost of pride. This is the Cards and the Cats and it just doesn’t get any bigger in college basketball. This year’s Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament will feature the 2012 and 2013 National Champions, and will be a rubber match of sorts between the last two champs of college basketball. The game will also feature programs with very different approaches to winning. The college basketball world will be watching to see if the team of grizzled veterans or the team of super freshman phenoms will rule the day.

Lucas Oil Stadium will be rocking Friday night and this will be the most anticipated Battle of the Bluegrass in years. It has been the Cats who have won the last 8 out of eleven in this battle head-to-head, but when looking at their entire body of work these teams have had similar success in the last 30 years. A series that started in 1913 these old rivals will meet for the 47th time on Friday night and for the 6th time in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky holds the all-time lead in this series 31-15, (3-2 in NCAA).

This game was named the #1 OOC game by Sports Illustrated. Here’s what they said: “Two elite teams meet once again, eternal bragging rights (at least for another year), HoF coaches who can’t stand each other. It’s not always a pretty watch, but it’s compelling TV and the best soap opera in the sport at the moment.”

Once again, Kentucky started from scratch this season after losing a host of players to the NBA and transfer. The Wildcats started this season ranked number #1 in the country despite returning only two players who contributed to their NIT first round loss last season. That says a lot about their coach John Calipari and his success in recruiting the best. As they have done since Calipari arrived on campus, the Cats once again have many blue chip athletes leading their team and many have dubbed this year’s UK freshman class as the best ever. This team does not compare to any team that Calipari has had since he’s been in Lexington, and he doesn’t have that group of upperclassman that can contribute on a nightly basis. He will start 5 freshman Friday night.

This group of UK freshman had been struggling to find their mojo. That resulted in a 9 loss regular season and a tumultuous plunge in the national rankings becoming one of only a few teams to start the season ranked 1st and finish unranked. Kentucky had suffered from defensive lapses against better teams. In their 9 losses, they allowed teams to be offensively efficient and shoot a high effective FG%. They could not score consistently, because they did not communicate, share the ball and play solid basketball. In the post season all that has changed. They are now playing more consistent on the defensive end of the floor and playing more like a team on the offensive end. In the Ken Pom ratings they currently have a 116.0 Offensive Adjustment efficiency ranked 17th and 96.0 Defensive Adjustment efficiency ranked 25th.

Much has been mentioned this week about match-ups in the game on Friday, and while the eye test suggest some obvious match-up issues the numbers would suggest those issues may not be as bad as they look. College basketball analyst Dan Hanner of took a closer look at all 150 players left in the Sweet 16 and below is a look at where UK and UofL players were listed as top players in certain categories:

-Among his top 7 Rim Protectors he has UK’s Willie Cauley Stein ranked 2nd with a 12.2 Block% and UofL’s Mango Mathiang ranked 5th with a 9.9 Block%.

-Among his top 16 players who rely on offensive rebounds to score due to their limited offensive skills he has UK’s Dakari Johnson ranked 2nd with a 17.5 offensive rebound%, UofL’s Stephan Van Treese ranked 4th with a 13.8 offensive rebound%, and UK’s Alex Poythress ranked 10th with a 11.6 offensive rebound%. Not mentioned by Dan in his research, but important to note that Van Treese has 43 rebounds in his last five games.

-Among his top 26 scorers he has Luke Hancock ranked 6th shooting 34% from the 3 point line (65 made, 192 attempted), and has Wayne Blackshear ranked 17th shooting 40% from the 3 point line (45 made, 112 attempted). Dan also mentions Luke and Wayne don’t just fit into one category. Mentioning Luke’s ability to drive to the basket and get fouled. And mentioning Wayne being a versatile defender. No UK players made this list.

-Among his top 13 pass first point guards he has Terry Rozier ranked 12th with a 116.9 offensive rating, 17.0 assist%, and 3.0 assist/turnover ratio. No UK players are listed in this category.

-Among his top 7 players when it comes to passing and scoring he has UK’s Andrew Harrison ranked 4th (11 PPG, 21.7 PctPoss, 104 ORtg, 23.1 A%, 1.4 A/To), and has UofL’s Chris Jones ranked 6th (10.4 PPG, 21.7 PctPoss, 110.2 ORtg, 20.6 A%, 2.1 A/To). He also mentions Harrison’s ability to drive and get to the lane.

-Among his top 19 pure scorers he has UofL’s Montrezl Harrell ranked 5th (14 PPG, 69.1 Tempo, 72.9 PctMin, 22.1 PctPoss, 117.6 ORtg), UK’s Aaron Harrison ranked 7th (14.1 PPG, 66.5 Tempo, 79.7 PctMin, 20.7 PctPoss, 116.6 ORtg), UofL’s Russ Smith ranked 10th (18.1 PPG, 69.1 Tempo, 72.9 PctMin, 30.8 PctMin, 30.8 PctPoss, 114.5 ORtg), UK’s Julius Randle ranked 15th (15.1 PPG, 66.5 Tempo, 75.9 PctMin, 26.3 PctPoss, 111.2 ORtg), and UK’s James Young ranked 17th (14.3 PPG, 66.5 Tempo, 80.1 PctMin, 22.0 PctPoss, 110.4 ORtg).
In this Dan adds that Russ is the highest volume scorer left in the tournament and has the second highest steal rate. He also mentions that Julius Randle is a monster on the offensive glass,

To read Every Player In The Sweet Sixteen By: Dan Hanner click here:

The Cardinals come into this game having a more consistent and effective back-court while Kentucky has the more consistent and effective front-court. In college basketball guard play is crucial to a team’s success rate especially in the NCAA Tournament. The speed of Russ Smith and Chris Jones is going to be very difficult for the bigger Kentucky guards to stay in front of. I really think they win that battle. More importantly in this one is if Montrezl, Stephan, and Mango can somehow neutralize the play of Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Randle. The winner of that three spot battle between Young, Blackshear and Hancock will also be a huge factor in this game.

Coach Pitino has had these guys away from all of the hype all week. He will have them ready to go. It will just come down to the execution of the game plan. Our Cards aren’t far removed from the biggest stage in college basketball, so the game on Saturday should be a walk in the park for our veterans. All the pressure is on the young guys in blue. Their room for error has been and will be very narrow in this game. I think it will all be too much for them to handle.

I’m ready to stop reading and talking about this game. I’m ready to head to Indy and watch what will be another great chapter in this rivalry. I do think this will be an incredible game and it will come down to the smallest intangibles that will make the difference. I like our Cardinals in this game and think they’ll be headed to the Elite 8 on Sunday and Coach Pitino will be 12-0 in the Sweet 16. Go Cards!.