Coach Mack & staff get a head start for 2021

Coach Mack and staff got a win on the court today and have got another win tonight getting an early 2021 commit from 4-star Oak Park (Ill.) Fenwick prospect Bryce Hopkins.

Hopkins is a versatile shooter who can play either shooting guard or small forward, the 6-5 prospect can take players off the dribble creating his own and slash to the basket. He is also a player with some versatility and can post up by the basket.

Hopkins currently falls around the Top 150 players in his class but look for him to keep climbing up the rankings. Hopkins quickly raised his stock over the summer with stand out performances in EYBL. He received scholarship offers from Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri in June 2019 alone. He also held offers from Kansas, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Cal.

After a slow recruiting cycle things have certainly picked up on the recruiting front for Louisville Basketball. They got a good start for 2021 with this kid.

Good Times for Louisville Hoops Recruiting

The 2020 recruiting class started off slow for Coach Mack and Louisville. But in the last few weeks business has picked up and tonight the highest-ranked player in Kentucky gave a verbal commit to the Cardinals. JJ Traynor is listed as a four-star recruit and the No. 79 overall player in the class of 2020 by

Just 10 days ago 4* D’Andre ”Dre” Davis, a 6-foot-5, 170-pound shooting forward from Indianapolis verbally committed to the Louisville 2020 Class. Much like Davis JJ Traynor is a player that came out of nowhere during the summer and impressed coaches. I even read one article where recruiting guru Evan Daniels raved about Traynor. He referred to the Kentucky native as “the biggest sleeper in the country.”

JJ has made a name for himself with his impressive size, length, athleticism, quickness and scoring ability for a primary ball handler. Sure sounds familiar. Traynor’s father, Jason Osbourne, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball and a legendary Cardinal in his own right used to wow the Freedom Hall crowd with his athleticism. Jason is one of my favorite all-time Louisville players and I’m certain that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Traynor averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds last season for a Bardstown team that went 15-16. Traynor is coached by another Louisville legend Bardstown head coach James “Boo” Brewer. I got a chance to interview Boo a few years ago. Coach Mack really kept it in the family with this recruit. A few weeks ago folks were thinking this 2020 class would be a wash but things are certainly looking up and I’m here for it all.

Traynor also held scholarship offers from Cincinnati, DePaul, Evansville, Missouri, Northern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Xavier.

Coach Mack & staff land another “We” guy

(Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

College basketball recruiting has been a hot discussion on social media. Some Louisville fans getting themselves all worked up because the NCAA cloud still hanging over the program is seemingly having an effect on the staffs recruiting efforts. I don’t see it that way.

Sure it’s not ideal to have an NCAA cloud hanging over your program but I think it serves as a way of only getting the guys who want to really be a part of your program. Guys that are buying into the “we” part of the recruiting pitch instead of the ”what can you do for me” approach.

Coach Mack and his staff have been really good at finding the “we” guys. Today they found another one. 4* D’Andre ”Dre” Davis, a 6-foot-5, 170-pound shooting forward from Indianapolis has verbally committed to the Louisville 2020 Class. Davis was originally committed to Tim Miles and Nebraska but decided to open back up his recruitment last week.

Ranked as the 96th player in the ESPN 100 the Davis decomittment garnered a lot of attention. Several Power 5 programs including Louisville jumped in the mix pretty quick. Coach Mack beat out Purdue and several others for the long athletic 3 man’s services. Davis is known as a player who can drive to the lane and create his own as well as shoot the step-back three. I think he is a guy that will fit well into Coach Mack’s system.

A guy who started out inside the top 200 Davis is a blue-collar player that has worked his way into the conversation with a great AAU season. Give me these Top 100 guys all day long. They are kids that it takes to win a championship and usually make up the backbone of a college program. I hope those Top 10 guys have all the success in the world but I just think they have too much of that ”ME” mentality to give a program the long term commitment it sometimes takes to win a championship. We see this play out every year at our arch-rival Kentucky. Not much of a backbone there.

I want to get guys at Louisville who want to be here. I want the guys who want to sink themselves in the traditions and lore that surround the Cardinal Nation. I want to get to know these guys and watch them develop and grow. I want the ”we” guys and I think Coach Mack and his staff got a commitment from another one of those today.

Recruiting is fine… And Louisville Basketball will be fine. Go Cards!

The Beak Red & White Scrimmage recap

The Louisville Basketball team took the Yum Center court for the first time on Saturday at the annual Red & White scrimmage. Team 106 is stacked. A preseason top 5 by most publications this team has the talent, depth, and attitude to make a National Title run. It was great to be back in the Yum Center and I’m excited that another basketball season is upon us.

I just watched the Louisville Football team win their first game over a ranked opponent since 2016. The football team has a new physicality about them this year and that has helped them turn things around pretty quick on the football field. Watching the basketball team at the scrimmage I noticed a significant difference in their physicality.

It was so physical on the Yum Center court on Saturday that you could hear it. Guys body checking, putting an arm in someone’s chest and guys looking to create contact on every play offense and defense. It really is crazy the difference a year has made under Coach Mack’s system and it too will start paying off. I don’t see this team getting pushed around by anyone.

I ask the players and Coach Mack about my observation during the scrimmage. Coach Mack said that it was good to hear someone talk about the improved physicality. Says that it’s hard for them to see the difference in the physicality of the team because they are with these guys every day. Ryan McMahon said that practices had gotten so physical that Coach Mack brought in referees to call fouls. This has paid off. Two of the most physical guys during the scrimmage were Dwayne Sutton and Steven Enoch. Between them, they drew 12 fouls but only had 3 personal combined. They are being very physical but not out of control.

The physical nature of this Louisville Basketball team is the biggest thing that stood out to me during the scrimmage but there were other observations.

Jordan Nwora should win Player of the Year. He made the decision to spurn the NBA and come back to Louisville for his junior season. He made the right one. He is surrounded on this team by offensive weapons. This should allow him to focus on his own game and develop his role on this team without having to be the primary source of points. Last year I felt like some games he was forced to take on too big of a role and that slowed his progression.

There will be nights when Jordan has to put the team on his back but it won’t be every night. I saw more quickness in his game on Saturday. And his vertical game has continued to get better. He had the scrimmages only blocked shot today. Jordan’s game has gotten much more active and is less reactive. I call him swag and his game is legit.

Speaking of legit game. Steven Enoch has gone full beast mode. He had an All American stat Line in Saturday’s scrimmage. He earned his 21 points. Aidan Igiehon did not give him any easy ones. Those guys battled in the paint all scrimmage. The Louisville frontcourt is loaded and the competition between these guys is going to make them all better. It already has.

Can’t say enough about Dwayne Sutton. He is such a workhorse. 20 minutes of grind. He is a guy that thrives in a physical game and really knows how to extend the play through contact. He drew a team-high 7 fouls during the scrimmage. Was 9-11 at the free-throw line. He’ll be another guy who will benefit from having a team full of offensive weapons. Sutton is the ultimate role player.

It has been awesome watching Darius Perry figure things out. His newfound self-awareness has carried over into his game on the floor. He is much more poised than he was a year ago and his improved court awareness makes him a more effective player. He had 5 assist to 1 turnover in the scrimmage. A year ago it would have been the opposite.

I’ve looked forward to seeing the Super 6 on the Yum Center court. I think their class is going to be pivotal in the success of the Louisville program during the next 10 years. If Coach Mack and his staff can go on a run like I think they can it will all have started with this 2019 class. Four of the six were in the ESPN 100. Out of the six, I think Williamson, Johnson, and Igiehon will see the most minutes this season. None of them had a stand out performance at the scrimmage.

Fresh Kimble and Ryan Mack also with a quiet scrimmage but you can bet they’ll both stand out as the season progresses.

All in all, there was nothing really surprising about the Red and White scrimmage. This team is going to come into this season with some lofty expectations. They looked the part on Saturday and have the parts to live up to the hype. It will be fun watching it all come together.

Go Cards!


Louisville Basketball has its Swag back…

(Photo courtesy LouisvilleMBB)

Touting a consensus top 10 recruiting class and a solid group of returning veterans Coach Mack met with the local media on Tuesday afternoon to provide a summer update. Along with Coach Mack two potential ACC all teamers Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch. None of these guys shied away from from the National Title talk and seem to be embracing the high expectations that already surround this team.

“I think you come to a place like Louisville to embrace those kinds of expectations…We’re not going to run from those expectations. Those guys that came here came to win a national championship.” – Chris Mack

Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack discusses Nwora and Enoch opting out of the NBA draft to stay at U of L and expectations for next season.

Both Nwora and Enoch echoed these sentiments as they addressed the media. I love it! This is the Louisville Basketball program I grew up watching. A consensus preseason top 5 team heading into the summer even the talking heads have jumped back on the Louisville bandwagon. Jeff Goodman is one of the few of them I pay attention to and he has Louisville ranked #3 in his latest preseason poll. Saying in a tweet ”And yes, I also have Louisville in front of UK.”

”Louisville in front of Kentucky”… That didn’t take long. But talk is cheap and this team’s first task will be to take back some of the respect lost in the rivalry.

Adding freshmen like McDonald’s All American Samuell Williamson and the freakishly athletic basketball sensation known as the ‘Irish Hulk’ Aidan Igiehon along with a grad transfer named ”Fresh” who comes in averaging 15.6 points in NCAA competition to a roster returning 56.7 points, and 28.1 rebounds you can’t blame Louisville for having their Swag back. Right?

It’s about time Louisville basketball and its fans get in a little chest thumping. The practice gym on Floyd Street will be bursting at the seams with basketball talent this winter. I’ve heard the players say Coach Mike Peques often refers to a quote found in Proverbs 27:17 “iron sharpens iron”. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper.

You can talk with any coach in America and they’ll tell you that its the competition in practice that makes a team better. I don’t think you’ll find another gym in the country with a more competitive environment than the Planet Fitness Kueber Center will have.

The theme here is Swag. And there hasn’t been a player in the last 10 years with more of it than Jordan Nwora. Since the first day, he walked into a Louisville gym just a young guy that knows how to carry himself. And won’t accept anything less than what he intends. My favorite player I affectionately call him Swag. This dude is the biggest offseason acquisition in college hoops and its not close. Already being mentioned as a potential First Team All American by some. With his size and ability, he is one of the best players in the country. On a team like this, he will be able to just fill his role. I think that will help him become the player he wants to be. That is a good thing for the Cardinals and Jordan.

Jordan Nwora discusses passing on the NBA draft to return to Louisville

In talking about the obvious I’m not ignoring the impact Ryan McMahon (best spot up shooter in the country), Dwayne Sutton (best sixth man in the country), Malik Williams (one of the best shot blockers in the country) and Darius Perry (one of the most energetic guys) will have this season.

Folks this team is loaded and for good reason, the swagger is back. Stick your chest out and look forward to the winter ahead. I expect that the hype will only grow as we get closer. Louisville isn’t just a player in the game this season they just might be the game. Louisville Basketball has its Swag back and I love it. Go Cards!


Survive and Advance

Credit a very good Clemson defensive scheme today it was like I was watching a basketball game being played in quicksand. Our Cardinals earned every basket. They split games this week but I think have learned a lot about themselves during this stretch.

I’ve said it many times on this Page that the college basketball season is a marathon and not a sprint. Just as a person has to find something deep within themselves in a marathon a basketball team must dig deep during a college season to overcome the challenges they face throughout. Those challenges prepare them for the postseason run.

This Louisville team has been challenged about as much as anyone and they’ve won 18 games. I think if they win two or three more they should be a lock at no worse than a 5 seed. Coach Mack is going to have to address his teams inability to finish games. They’ll have ample opportunity to figure it out with the games they have left.

Nothing pretty about anyone today but did like CC’s effectiveness throughout. He really showed moxie in the second half scoring 16 points and hitting 5-7 shots to bring Louisville back from a late 7 point deficit. And Jordan stepped up late. That late dunk and game-winning blocked shot saved us all a lot of heartaches.

The Tournament is just as much about surviving as anything. Our Cardinals are learning how to survive. They survived today.

L’s Up!


Cards look to build off big ACC win

Our Cardinals came out as a team possessed on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. Might have been the best ”effort” game of the season. You could tell a big difference in that effort from the Cardinals road loss to Pitt. Especially on the defensive side of the basketball. I wrote last week that this team had hit a wall. That wall still very much exist from a competitive standpoint. It takes a lot to come out every game and give that performance they had on Saturday.

Don’t know if the Cardinals will match that intensity tonight but it is a good chance to build on the momentum of the last game. I’d like to think that this team is starting to heat up with the meat of the ACC schedule arriving. They have won 8 of the last 11 with only one blemish on the home court. They have shot 47 percent from the field while outscoring teams by an average of 15.5 points at home this season.

That doesn’t bode well for a Boston College team who has lost their last four games. They have lost two of their last three road games. The Eagles are shooting just 40.8 percent from the field during this losing stretch while being outscored by an average of nearly eight points. But as we have already seen this season its any given night in the ACC and BC does have three double-digit scorers and they do hit the boards averaging 34.8 a game. You score points and rebound you can win games.

I’d like to see the Cardinals come out tonight and take care of their business. It would be great not to see any kind of let down performance wise after the big road win at UNC. Now it’s about building on big wins and not taking steps backward. This team can’t afford to do that in a competitive conference like the ACC. They have to win the ones they are supposed to. And they should roll tonight.
Enjoy the game! Go Cards!


Conference Play: The season within the season…

The College Basketball season is not a sprint but more like a marathon. Our Cardinals are about to hit the second leg of the marathon on Sunday afternoon in the Yum Center. I always looked at Conference play as the season within the season.

As a Coach and a fan, you hope that the non-conference prepared them for the grind ahead. Everything gets more physical, mentally challenging and premeditated in conference play. The team’s who play hard, smart and with great execution will prevail over the next couple of months. This Louisville team was challenged on all three levels during the non-conference schedule.

When I think of toughness I think banging inside and rebounding. The Cardinals toughness has been tested early on. Playing against some of the best rebounding teams in the country and holding their own. Michigan State, Tennesse, Marquette, Lipscomb, and Indiana all rank in the Top 50 nationally in defensive rebounding. While UK is among the Top 50 in offensive rebounding. Mich St, UK, and Marquette are all ranked Top 20 in Rebound margin.

In the last game, our Cardinals did bang the boards with a team ranked second in the country in rebounding margin at the time (UofL 33 rebs, UK 34 rebs) and won the offensive rebound battle (UofL 13 rebs, UK 10 rebs). UK came into that game third in offensive rebounding percentage. Hitting the glass is important in basketball but it’s crucial in conference play.

When I think about their mental toughness being tested I think about the game against Seton Hall on the road. That game was tied at 5 different segments and had six different lead changes. Louisville dominated the boards that day 42 – 28 and hit 11 of 12 free throws to win a close one. Cards were mentally tough that day but then lost some of that mojo when they played flat against Robert Morris and really lost the mental battle with Kentucky. They are a monkey on our back at this point.

When I think about this teams execution I think about the game against Indiana when they failed to execute down the stretch and think about the game against Michigan State where they controlled throughout and hit free throws down the stretch in that one. They executed well in the game against Kent State and did against UK to a certain point but was out-toughed on the offensive end of the floor.

This team is showing some promise heading into conference play and have had about everything thrown at them so far. The Cardinals are ranked nationally #87 in Scoring offense, #6 in Free-throws made, and #16 Free throw percentage. If this team makes a run it will be done as a result of great offensive execution and getting to the free throw line. The defense has been hit or miss with this group early on. Hoping this extra week helped them make up some ground there.

As far as individually Jordan with 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and CC with 9.6 points a game have been the most consistent players. While Sutton with 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and Steven Enoch with 8.8 points per game have had a few stand out performances. Really would like to see another guy get into the mix during conference play. VJ, Darius, Malik, and Ryan have to raise their level of play night in and night out.

I always enjoy the conference part of the schedule. We had some great Rivalries roll over into the ACC from the Big East days with Notre Dame and Syracuse and have formed a new one with Virginia. The ACC conference looks to be tougher than ever and I think this Louisville team can be right in the mix.

It all starts on Sunday with Miami. They are a team that will play solid defense on every level without fouling. A tough team in the paint. Our frontcourt will be tested in the conference opener. This Louisville team has exceeded most expectations and I think Coach Mack still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Looking forward to covering this game and looking forward to seeing what this Louisville team has for the ACC. Go Cards.


Battle of the Bluegrass Eve…

Funny thing about a great Rivalry like the Louisville vs Kentucky basketball game. Everyone knows when they first started to pay attention and everyone remembers that one great high and that one big low.

My favorite win in the Rivalry was that game in 2003… It had been six years since the Cardinals had won at Rupp Arena and they ended the Wildcats’ 27-game regular-season winning streak that season beating them 65-56. Kentucky was ranked #1 at the time. Louisville’s win also ended a strange streak – the winner of the annual Kentucky-Louisville football game had lost the basketball game between the schools each year since the football rivalry was resumed in 1994. Louisville also won that year’s football game 40-24.

The biggest low for me in the rivalry had been the loss in the Sweet 16 game back in 2014. Really thought that team had a repeat Championship in them and then to get knocked out of the tournament by them. But that all changed last year in that loss at Rupp Arena. Everything that Louisville group had been thru and then had to take that 29 point beating that day. It was awful. I think the weight of everything the program had been thru hit me that day. I covered the game in Lexington and I will never forget how that post game locker room felt. It was like entering a funeral and in some ways felt like the soul had been sucked from us all. Don’t want to ever be a part of a gameday-like that again.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since that day. What a difference a year can make in College sports. A year ago things looked so bleak but now the outlook couldn’t be better. Coach Mack has put a smile back on the player’s faces and back on the faces of the fans. Basketball is fun again in Louisville and you can just feel that redemption isn’t far behind. We owe the NCAA and College Basketball a payback but what Kentucky has coming their way is a reckoning.

Gone are the days of having a Coach who spent more time over the last 10 years comparing Kentucky to Camelot than he did planning how to beat them. With a 2-9 record against them to prove that. Coach Mack has a history of immersing himself in these kinds of rivalries. Just go watch some of those YouTube post-game videos when he was a part of the crosstown shootout with Cincy and Xavier. He is a guy that knows what a game like this means for the players and the fans involved. I’m looking forward to these Bluegrass battles with him at the helm.

Now about the game Saturday…

Kentucky is pretty much the same team they are every season around this time of year. A group of talented freshmen still learning how to play together and still learning the process of College Basketball. Saturday will be this young Kentucky team’s first true road game of the season. The last time Louisville beat Kentucky at the Yum Center they were coming off a big win against North Carolina and it was their first true road game. Let’s hope history does repeat itself.

The players that concern me the most on their team is Reid Travis a graduate transfer who is a two-time all-Pac-12 first-team player and is averaging 15.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a game this season. He has scored 20 or more points in four games. And Tyler Herro who is averaging 12.4 points and has drained 17 3-pointers this season. Both of these guys are very good players and are emotional guys. The kind of guys the rest of that team feeds off of. Can’t let either of them have a big day. The size advantage that UK has this season is also a bit concerning. They are using that size well ranked second in the country in rebounding margin and third in offensive rebounding percentage.

I’m confident that Coach Mack will dial up the right game plan to thwart these concerns and to compensate for that size advantage. I think the Cardinals will employ a very physical style of basketball on Saturday. And a lot will depend on which way the whistle blows as it often does in this rivalry game.

Last year I wrote an article before this game titled ”A Player that comes out of Nwora” and think I was a year behind as far as Dave Padgett was concerned. I always knew that Jordan Nwora would be that guy. I think on Saturday that he will be that guy. Jordan made his comments after the Robert Morris game saying all he wanted for Christmas was a win over UK. I think he’ll go out and get that win. He has the size and ability to match them.

CC and Steven Enoch will also be two other guys that will need to have a big day. Or at least a solid day. CC has been a solid leader for this team all season and he’ll have to run the offense effectively on Saturday. Look for him to drive and dish to the open man on the perimeter. UK hasn’t been great at defending the three-point shot. And Steven is another guy that can match the size and ability of UK’s post guys. He’ll need to bang with them and hopefully draw some fouls to get their guys in trouble. Stevens ability to shoot free-throws is a great weapon to have. If he is effective. I’ll say my sleeper of the game would be Ryan Mac. He has been a part of this rivalry for a few years and lost some tough ones. A kid with his moxie hasn’t forgotten about those losses either. I’d sure enjoy seeing him get some payback.

Coach Mack said in his weekly press conference that he doesn’t want a player on his team that doesn’t let an “ass whooping” like Kentucky gave us last year set with them a little. I can bet that game is still on the mind of our guys. It has sat on my mind for a year. It’s time for payback and it’s time for a new Era in this rivalry. Let’s hope that a new era starts 1-0.

The Rivalry game is always big for me but on Saturday it will mean just a little bit more. My son is 7 years old and has taken a big interest in Louisville sports this year. This will be our first time attending the Louisville vs Kentucky game together. There will be many more but this one is special. He is so excited. I want my Cardinals to win but I really want his Cardinals to win.

Cheer hard folks! And let’s hope we enjoy it.

Go Cards!


Another Scrappy opponent on Saturday

Louisville fans are counting down the days for the annual Battle of the Bluegrass now just 14 days away. Also, conference play is right around the corner. If planned out correctly I was always a firm believer that the early nonconference schedule was critical in getting a team ready for the conference grind. This Louisville team should be ready when conference play starts. They have played against talent, different styles, have played in close games, have played in overtime, and have played some scrappy opponents. 

This season’s nonconference schedule has had it all. And They’ll get another scrappy opponent on Saturday afternoon with Kent State coming to town. The Golden Flashes come into this game playing some solid basketball. They’ve won 6 in a row, including a 2-point win over Vanderbilt as a 12-point underdog. They’ll be a 13 point underdog in this one. As a team, Kent State is averaging 82.2 points per game on 45.6% shooting from the field, 37.5% from 3-point range and 70.4% from the foul line this season. That’s good enough to land them in the Top 50 nationally in scoring offense at 48th. This Kent State team is an excellent passing team and they don’t turn the ball over. They are 32nd in the nation in assists/turnovers ratio. 

If I had to point to one area that this Louisville team needed to improve that would be on the defensive side of the ball. They are still very much a work in progress on that end of the floor but are moving in the right direction. Now up to 111th in FG% defense, 168th in 3pt FG% defense, and 133rd in scoring defense. You can see the light come on during certain stretches but then it dims a little throughout. These guys are starting to get it. An opponent like Kent State will be another tough test defensively. 

Things are rolling right along on the offensive end of the floor for our Cardinals. We got a guy like Jordan Nwora who is gonna get his no matter who we play. Jordan is in the top 125 nationally in points per game, top 115 in rebounds per game and in top 100 in total points and rebounds on the season. He is the best scorer we’ve seen since Russ Smith. I knew this kid was it. Glad to be right. We have other guys who are stepping up as well. Malik Willams just produced his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds the last time out. He is 72nd in the country in blocked shots this season. 

We also have the top free throw shooter in the country in Ryan McMahon. This young man is also effective at getting to the line. Most underestimate his game. That’s a mistake. Hope opposing players keep making that mistake. Dwayne Sutton has also been important for this team. He’s a guy that’s gonna give you a great effort everytime he puts on the uniform. He is averaging a solid  8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Our glue guy has been  Christen Cunningham who leads the team in assists with 3 a game. It’s great to have a mature guy like him running the point. 

There are also guys like Steven, VJ, Khwan, Akoy and Darius who at times have all made their impact felt in a game this season. I like how Coach Mack has developed his rotation. He’s let these guys settle into their roles and it has been fun to watch. It all seems to be coming together at the right time and at the right pace. Still, a long way to go sure but man I like the progression. 

With another scrappy opponent coming into the Yum Center on Saturday afternoon it’s another opportunity for Mack Attack to get better and to continue that progression. I’ve seen some talented Louisville teams lose games like that last one against Lipscomb. But the toughness and winning spirit that has been instilled into this group were on full display in that one. They are headed in the right direction. Enjoy another step in that process folks. Go Cards! Game Preview: