The Louisville basketball program got some big man insurance for the future today with the news that UCONN 6-11 center Steven Enoch will transfer to play basketball for Coach Pitino and the Cardinals. Enoch visited the campus a few weeks ago and must have liked what he heard from the Louisville staff. The most important part of that conversation is how big of a role that Enoch could play in the 18-19 season. Enoch will sit out a year and then have two years of eligibility left.
Enoch is your typical Pitino type player. He was in the 2015 recruiting class with Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, Ryan McMahon and Ray Spalding. And like those guys was labeled as a recruit with a lot of upside. Enoch was a 4* recruit and ranked #99 in the ESPN100. Here are what scouts said about Enoch in 2015:
Enoch is a late blooming big man who barely played high school basketball as an underclassman but has continued to both grow and develop at a rapid rate. He’s got good size with a naturally strong build and long arms. He’s a solid athlete who can change ends and play above the rim. His skill set has been well developed so that he is a consistent shooter from 15-18 feet and a threat from behind the three-point line. He’s starting to develop a jump hook over both shoulders with his back to the basket but also has a naturally high release point in or around the paint. He’s quick in catch-and-finish situations, a solid rebounder, and good shot-blocker.
He’s largely unproven against high level competition and still very much a work in progress. Consistency is arguably his biggest problem right now as he can disappear for long stretches at a time. He’s a product of a skill development generation and so while he can look great in a workout, he’s still learning to adjust to the many variables that game conditions and defenders create.
His recruiting has taken off by his long-term potential, now it becomes a matter of backing up his newfound reputation as he’ll have to turn potential into production on an increasingly frequent basis.
Enoch’s production and development at UCONN has been a slow go it seems, but having that year to work out with Coach Pitino and his staff will really be a big boost to that. I Look for Enoch to be a big-time contributor for the Cardinals in 18/19 season as well as his senior season 19/20… A great add to the program.
Here are Enoch’s stats during his two seasons at UCONN:
Coach Pitino’s best recruiting class since being the head man at the University of Louisville will be on display this weekend. University of Louisville signees Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora will all play in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic Presented by Papa John’s on Saturday, April 15 at Freedom Hall. The Basketball Classic game tips off at 7:00 p.m. Aside from being one of the best recruiting classes it very well could end up being one of the more important ones. This 2017 group will have a similar impact that the 2015 group has had on the program. The Cardinals will head into the 2017-18 College Basketball season as one of the favorites to win a National Title and this 2017 group could play an important part in that happening.
This Louisville class is ranked #8 by ESPN, #7 by 247Sports, #10 by Scout, and #7 by Rivals. Three of the Louisville signees Williams, Perry and Nwora are well within the top 100 of each recruiting service and Thomas finds himself just on the cusp. Malik Williams who is considered the real prize among this group is ranked 20th by Scout, 25th by 247Sports, 29th by ESPN, and 27th by Rivals. Darius Perry is ranked 75th by Scout, 69th by 247Sports, 51st by ESPN, and 94th by Rivals. Jordan Nwora is ranked 146th by Scout, 46th by 247Sports, 87th by ESPN, and 90th by Rivals. Lance Thomas is ranked 103rd by Scout, 76th by 247Sports, NR by ESPN, and 142nd by Rivals.
I’m really impressed by the length as well as the overall skill of this group and can’t wait to see that on display first hand on Saturday night. Malik Williams is a long 6-foot-11 big man with a high ceiling. According to various scouts he has some rim protecting ability on the defensive end, an emerging face-up skill set on the offensive end and most predict him to have some serious star potential down the road. Jordan Nwora is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward and according to various scouts one of the top shooters in the class of 2017, not just from behind the 3-point line but also with his ability to make tough shots off the dribble. Most say that in many ways he is tailor made for coach Rick Pitino’s system. Lance Thomas is another long and athletic 6-9 Power Forward who various scouts say has a lot of potential. They say that he is a long-term stock who has multi-faceted tools and high upside on both ends of the floor but isn’t going to be ready to put it all together for at least another year or so. This kid really has a nice basketball frame and the foundation is there. I can’t wait to see how coach Pitino molds him into a big-time player. Darius Perry by all accounts is a tough and gritty point guard who will probably be Quentin Snider’s back-up as a freshman before having every opportunity to run the show as a sophomore.
This recruiting class really has me excited about the future of the Louisville basketball program. I’m looking forward to them making their Louisville debut on Saturday night in Freedom Hall. I know you really can’t tell much about players in these all-star type events but having a chance to see them in person will give us some idea of just how talented this group really is and just how special they could be for the season ahead. I encourage all Louisville fans to get out to Freedom Hall Saturday and give these guys an early welcome into the Cardinal Nation. Tickets are $18 in advance ($20 at the door) and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com and by phone through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets for the game and 2017 Pegasus Pins will allow for free admission to the Horseshoe Foundation Derby Festival Night of the Future Stars, which will be held on Friday, April 14, at Indiana University Southeast.
I’ll have full coverage of the Derby Festival Basketball Classic on the site and over on the Cardinal’s Beak Fan Page. #L1C4
One night back in November of 1988 at a Middle School gym in Owenton Kentucky a much younger version of myself was playing an 8th grade basketball game… the coach had just drawn up a play in which I would get the in-bounds pass and have a chance to score. My heart was pounding as I made my move and caught the ball. I remember spinning past the kid who was guarding me and breaking away in the open court as the crowd went wild.
I made the lay-up and began my celebration but immediately realized something wasn’t right. The reaction of coach Reynolds was odd and why wasn’t my team on this end of the floor with me…? You can imagine the horror when I figured out that I had just made a wide-open lay-up on the opponent’s end of the court. Turns out the crowd was going wild trying to get me to stop.
Fast forward to a night in November of 2011 in a Middle School gym… a 13 yr. old Carson Williams was playing an 8th grade basketball game when he came flying through the air and completed an alley-Oop dunk like you would see at the college level. That dunk would be the beginning of an incredible basketball journey for Carson Williams. That journey will come to a culmination in Indianapolis when Carson and his NKU team take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament Friday night.
I told you about my big middle school moment because that was more of the norm when it comes to the athletic prowess of a 13-yr. old where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong there have been a lot of good athletes come from Owen County but nothing like Carson Williams. You just don’t see too many 13yr old’s making plays like the one in the video above and there aren’t many 18-yr. old’s who could pull it off either.
In small rural areas, it’s hard sometimes for kids like Carson to get the attention they deserve. The AAU programs have really helped but it still isn’t easy to get on the right teams and get on the right courts. And when you do get on the right team and the right court you must take advantage of the opportunity.
Carson took advantage of the opportunity and dunked his way through the AAU ranks and landed a spot on the Lexington based Kentucky Travelers basketball team. The Travelers are a Nike sponsored AAU team who play in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. Carson had his needle moving performance in AAU while at an event in Virginia back in May of 2014. That weekend Carson was 1-1 3pt, 22-38 FG 58%, 16-24 FT 67%, had 23 Rebs, 2 Assts, 3 Stls, 2 Blks, and 61 points. It was after this weekend in Virginia that scouts really started to take notice of the hometown kid.
There were several articles written that mentioned Carson’s AAU breakout weekend but probably none bigger than the ESPN Insider folks who called him one of the “Biggest Sleepers” of the class. In that article, they said:
Carson Williams: He is a strong and athletic wing and could be a very skilled 4 at the next level depending on future team and scheme. He plays hard, can shoot to 19 feet and will dunk on you if you are not paying attention. He had 21 in Kentucky Travelers’ loss to Team United (N.C.). The 6-5 small forward can be a mid-major stud or a great role player at a high-major school in the 2016 class.
It was his time in the AAU that really helped him get the important notoriety but Carson Williams also dunked his way to a very successful run at Owen County high school setting records that will last generations. He helped his team win a lot of games and a lot of District championships including a few trips to the All-A State semifinals. With the help of Williams, the Rebels basketball team was considered one of the best in the state even ranked in the top 10 of some polls. Carson never got the chance to play in the state’s biggest game but he did win Kentucky’s highest basketball honor the title of “Mr. Basketball”.
This past summer Carson’s journey landed him in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic. It is one of the premiere all-star games in the country and has seen many greats come through it. Carson had a great showing at this event and was a semifinalist in the dunk contest. It was a great night of celebration for all that he had accomplished as a high school player. I was proud to tell the other media court-side that he was from my hometown.
Carson Williams decided to continue his basketball journey at Northern Kentucky University. And he has been that mid-major stud in his first college season that all those scouts said he would be. He earned Horizon League freshman of the week honors a few times and has become an important part of the Horizon League Tournament Champion Norse basketball team.
Carson said that he chose to go to Northern Kentucky to help build the newly Division 1 program into a dominate player in the Horizon League. He said that he wanted to help them get to the NCAA Tournament. In year number one its mission accomplished.
There are a lot of great college basketball players that fall short of the dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Friday night Carson Williams will be representing all the years of hard work and dedication that it takes to achieve such a goal while overcoming the odds of coming from such a rural area. It also takes a bit of luck. But good things happen to good people and you won’t find a better young man.
Carson will be the first player from Owen County to make it to the NCAA Tournament during the modern era and only the second ever. He will be representing all the folks that grew up there. Everyone has followed along on his journey and has a lot of pride for his accomplishments. One of the reasons he went to NKU was so his family, friends and community could come to his college games. It’s only about an hour from Owenton to Highland Heights as the crow flies.
Carson brought a lot of hometown spirit back to those Owen County school gyms and that spread throughout the community. It also spread to folks from there that live all over the country.
I reached out to Carson Williams and his family and asked them what it meant to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Carson’s Mother Heidi Williams:
“Some people questioned his decision to go to NKU but we felt like that with the new coach and the move to the Horizon league that it was a good fit and they may make it to the tournament but we never dreamed it would be this soon. It’s been very exciting and fun. He’s had a great deal of support from family, friends and Rebel Nation and I’m glad the community is so excited about the tournament. Carson has worked very hard for the past 14 years and it’s great to see him and his teammates get to enjoy this.”
NKU Freshman Carson Williams:
“Most every young basketball player dreams of playing in the NCAA tournament and I was no different. It means a lot to me to have that dream become a reality especially considering the countless hours of hard work that I’ve put in to help me get to this position. With that being said, no matter how good or popular the team we play is I don’t approach this as anything other than just another game.”
Many of the same folks that were in that Middle School gym the night Carson had that big dunk will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night. And the folks who can’t make it will be tuned in to watch their hometown boy fulfilling yet another dream. That kid who put the ball in the wrong basket will be there too. I love being a Carson Williams fan and watching him play takes me back to my younger days. I didn’t have an ounce of the ability but at one time I did have a similar dream.
I wrote this week about the special moments we often see during March Madness. It is three weeks where real life dramas play out during a College Basketball Tournament. For Carson Williams, his family, his fans, Owen County and NKU Friday night will be that special moment. Good Luck Carson! Good Luck NKU!
College basketball fans all over the country are in a basketball frenzy. Making plans to go see their teams chase the dream, filling out their brackets and planning their excuse for missing work this week. It really is March Madness. But along with this Madness there are many special moments made.
We’ve all seen these moments and even been a part of them. It’s the occasion where real life becomes a part of the game. We all love to see our favorite team win but nothing is more compelling than to see some of these real life dramas play out during the NCAA Tournament. Moments when folks overcome real life adversity, moments of great personal triumph, moments that bring people together and moments that bring people real joy.
If you aren’t a Louisville Basketball fan chances are that you will forget who the 2013 National Champion was. But there isn’t a college basketball fan that will forget how that team rallied around one of their fallen brothers. The moment when they lowered the basket to let Kevin Ware cut that net folks all over the country were cutting it with him.
And as a fan how great was it to see Tim Henderson hit those three point shots. What a moment for that young man. And I’ll never forget how happy I was for Luke Hancock getting to play the best basketball of his life in front of his ailing father. And there wasn’t a father among us who couldn’t relate to the pride Mr. Siva had cheering for his son and how he had overcome his own adversity through his son’s faith. We all felt great joy in watching that team win a championship.
On Friday I’m looking forward to heading to Indianapolis for a college basketball smorgasbord. I’m going to watch four basketball games that will feature three different basketball teams from Kentucky. I’m also looking forward to that moment that Moment when my Cardinals make their return to the NCAA Tournament again after a post season ban and that moment when Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball NKU’s Carson Williams takes the NCAA Tourney floor for the first time. Carson is only the second player from my humble hometown of Owenton Kentucky to play in the Big Dance. That entire community and everyone from there have followed this young man’s journey. Friday will be a culmination of the pride we all have for him.
There is going to be a lot of great basketball played over the next three weeks. And there are going to be many more special moments made. Don’t get all caught up in the wins and losses of it all and miss out on some of the real life inspiration that can come from it. Don’t miss the “Feel Good” of it all. I wish each of you a great March Madness. Enjoy it! Go Cards!
There have been many great athletes come through the Louisville football program each leaving their mark etched in Cardinal Lore… Young men who make the decision to come be a part of the Cardinal family and let us all be a part of this very important chapter in their lives. We share their highs and their lows and feel proud of them when they succeed.
This season Lamar Jackson left a pretty big mark on the Louisville program and leaped his way into the hearts of the College football world. He won over thousands with his athletic ability and electrifying moves on the football field, but it was the humble, shy, respectful, decent young man off the field that won me over.
When he wasn’t beating himself up with those way too low grades he gave himself after every game he was praising his teammates and coaches. A guy so soft spoken that you had to sometimes struggle to hear in a post-game locker-room, but one who had just been ferocious on the football field.
Lamar Jackson would take the time to sign a young girls cast or to give a kid his wrist band, but did everything he could to avoid the fanfare. Back in September I covered the very first football game of the season. Lamar had 8 touchdowns, 286 yards passing and 119 yards rushing. I took the picture above and after the game against Charlotte the writing was on the wall. But I digress…
After the post-game interviews wrapped up that night in the locker-room I gathered my things and headed to my car. As I walked out Lamar Jackson walked out of the player’s door ahead of me. As he headed out of the gates in front of me there were several groups of fans and players acquaintances. I noticed that Lamar put his ear phones in, pulled his hood up and headed towards Floyd Street.
I always park in the lot over by Lynn Stadium and as I watched Lamar walk down a low lit side walk towards campus I thought to myself here’s a kid who just put his name in a lot of sports conversations walking all alone back to his dorm just like the average college student getting out of a night class.
Lamar didn’t stop by the fanfare that night to accept all of that praise; he didn’t go get into a flashy sports car and drive off with a car load of co-eds… That’s not who Lamar Jackson is.
Lamar Jackson is an unbelievable athlete and I love watching him spin… leap and dive like those characters I played with as a kid on my Nintendo. But nothing impresses me more than how someone with all that ability can be so humble.
Last night Lamar Jackson was awarded the biggest individual prize in college football. He won the Heisman Trophy by gathering all those amazing stats and by being a phenomenal athlete. He earned it… But it was that soft spoken humble guy who clumsy with his words gave all of the credit to his coaches, friends and family who deserved it.
Now back to that Cardinal Lore… my son is 5 years old and I already have him very active in the Cardinal universe. I’ve got to share some pretty cool moments with him already. Last season when he got to stand beside me on the field in the Georgia Dome, this season when Coach Galloway called him over and talked with him during spring practice… I’m trying to create tradition and those memories for him to pass down to his kids someday.
Last night he was with me celebrating the Football programs first Heisman Trophy and I had him out taking a picture with me in front of the Lamar Jackson tribute at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 11:30. That’s good stuff folks. And we owe it all to those great Cardinal football players who have helped us make those memories. And we owe it to Lamar Jackson.
Lamar Jackson has added an amazing story to Cardinal Lore and I’m sure it will not be the last. Hopefully we’ll all be right back here a year from now doing this all again. Archie Griffin is the only person to win the Heisman Trophy two times… Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes said of Griffin, “He’s a better young man than he is a football player, and he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen”. Does that remind you of anyone you know..?
Along with the high expectations of the upcoming Cardinal Football season there has been a level of anticipation waiting to hear from the NCAA about whether or not they will accept the self-imposed penalty by the Louisville Basketball team or will it be more punishment coming. I know it has been the big elephant in the room for many die hard Cardinal fans and we just want it to be over and behind us.
While the Louisville Program continues to wait on that final judgment of the NCAA today Coach Pitino got some big news from the big man of the future Malik Williams. Williams is a 6-11 product of R. Nelson Snide High School in Indiana. This kid really burst onto the recruiting scene during the spring playing with Legit Basketball in Indiana. When you see scouts and other folks breaking down his game they talk about how well he runs the floor as a big man and how well he moves in the post. He is a player that is capable of facing up and making a move to the basket and can step back and hit shots on the perimeter.
Coach Pitino said recently that he was going to go back to having his teams press a lot more. This means that the back-court guys along with front-court guys are going to have to be able to run up and down the floor and be able to make things happen on both ends of the court. Malik Williams is a guy that can do that and will fit in nicely to what Coach Pitino’s plan is for his team. Williams just recently started to break-out as a big time player but a lot of programs had taken notice of his potential. He held offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State, North Carolina State and UCLA.
Coach Pitino got the guy he wanted in the 2016 Class when he inked VJ King, and now has started the 2017 Class off with a guy to build around. Williams will blend into the Louisville program nicely. He is a kid that has been described as having a great work ethic and has that competitiveness and desire Coach Pitino loves in a player. With the potential to be a future NBA player is a kid who will need a couple of seasons of college to get ready for that. Williams a four star recruit is ranked #42 in the ESPN 100, #22 in 247 Sports, #30 in the Scout 100 and #35 in the Rivals 150.
Now that Coach Pitino has his big man of the future he will turn his focus to the perimeter. Other primary targets that he will look to add to this class are Makai Ashton-Langford, Brandon Randolph, Alex O’Connell, Darius Perry, Lindell Wigginton, and Matt Coleman. You can check the profile of these players along with Malik Williams over on the Beak Recruiting Page
This has been a great week for Cardinal Sport’s fans. Football season is ramping up and with less than a hundred days until College Basketball tips we got a very solid player for the future of the program. I’m looking forward to what is shaping up to be a very good year of Cardinal athletics.
ESPN BREAKDOWN OF MALIK WILLIAMS
Williams is extra long and lean power forward. He has good hands and runs the floor extremely well. He is also a high level shot blocker with great length and timing. In the lane he scores with quick turn shots or finishes above the rim when he receives drop off passes created by dribble penetration. He handles the ball pretty well for his size and has good range on his jumper from the mid range areas out to the arc with needed time and space. He rebounds well with his length as opposed to strength.
Williams will need to continue to.work on adding strength and weight in order to be more physical and make his production more consistent.
Williams is a high major prospect with excellent versatility. He is talented and loaded with potential with his best playing days ahead of him.
I took my son to his first T-Ball practice last week. Before the practice starts I see this kid over to the side playing catch with his father. This kid was really good and catching every ball his Dad was throwing to him. Wanting to be challenged more he was yelling at his Dad “make me move”. As I’ve grown older I find myself wanting to be challenged more and am always looking for someone or something to “make me move” There aren’t very many times while we are on this earth that we will be truly “moved”
This past week we lost one of The Greatest men this world has ever known. In his lifetime Muhammad Ali was responsible for not only making those around him “move” but inspired the world to “move”. Over the past week I have been “moved” hearing the stories and seeing the impact that this Great Man had. Among my favorites are the time Ali helped a random car full of college students whose car had broken down on the side of the road, in 1981 how Ali talked a suicidal man out of jumping to his death, or the time he helped secure the release of 15 US hostages in Iraq.
I was also “moved” this past week to see the impact Muhammad Ali has had on not only his generation but many generations to come. Covering Louisville sports this week It was great to see the Louisville Baseball team wear the name “ALI” on their hats, and seeing that even in his passing he was with them and inspiring them to be great, or reading about a group of Louisville Football players who went to Ali’s childhood home to pay their respects. Even on Friday seeing that the Louisville Basketball team was together paying their respects at the Ali memorial service.
Watching the memorial service Friday afternoon I was not only “moved” but was challenged personally to “move”. The speeches were incredible and very inspiring but the thing that really stood out was how Muhammad Ali even in his post-life was able to bring a city, a state, a country and a nation together. Friday there was no black & white, us & them, Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, Cards or Cats. That day we all came together to honor someone who “moved us”.
Thank you Muhammad Ali for making this world a better place, thank you in these trying times for showing us all that we can co-exist and thank you for making us “move”.
Ali “moved” me this past week and I will “move” to be a better person. I think that is his final challenge to us all.
“Don’t count the days; make the days count”- Muhammad Ali
To say that Cardinal Basketball fans have been held captive would be an understatement. We’ve waited anxiously for the last 2 months to hear news from the NCAA about a scandal we’ve waded through for the last 6 months. Today Louisville fans waited for another decision, and had plenty of company. Most College Basketball fans where stuck to their social media accounts waiting to hear who would stay and who would go. As most of us where just trying to get through our “Hump Day” it was also filled with many “Humpy” moments as college athletes held our nerves. As college sports fans it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama of young athletes making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. We invest a lot of time and emotion on these guys and don’t want to see them go. And we know that our team is better with them.
Chinanu Onuaku by my account is a very humble young man, and out of all of the Louisville players in that locker room he seemed to dislike the media attention the most. Many times the sounds of a post-game locker room drowned out his soft tone during interviews. I’m not going to blame him for having his moment, but these decision day platforms are frustrating. The NBA needs to find a better way to recruit their talent and aren’t doing these young men any favor. The other professional sports have it figured out give them a call.
After all of the ups and downs and plot twist of a daytime soap opera Chinanu did make it official Wednesday evening on his Instagram account:
“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process, me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft,” Onuaku wrote on his Instagram post. “I will take the Terry Rozier route and work my way into the first round. I have talked to Coach Pitino and he is behind me 100 percent.”
I wish him all of the best this world has to offer and hope he can grab a hold of success at the next level. He was a great Cardinal and helped win a lot of basketball games.
There was also another young athlete who made a big decision today. Tadarrius Patterson, a three-star outside linebacker from Birmingham (AL), committed to Louisville Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps not grabbing the attention it deserved this was big news. We pulled this kid straight from the jaws of the mighty SEC. This kid held offers from Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Kentucky. He also held the attention of Alabama and other SEC schools.
Adequate height with good length and range. Runs well and covers ground quickly. Lacks strength and power at the point of attack at this stage.
Instincts/Take On Skills
Above average recognition skills finding the ball, plays fast and reads on fly. Will occasionally over run the ball or take and inside angle and lose contain. Feels routes develop well in coverage. Lacks an strong anchor versus the run and can continue to develop strength and improve power-base. More effective slipping blocks then then taking on and shedding.
Reach and grab tackler, not a wrap and drive through type. Would benefit from coming in lower as he tends to grab high for drag downs.
3rd Down Capabilities
Shows raw ability as a pass rusher, quick with hands and has the athleticism to make an inside move or redirect to beat blockers. Flashes of effective speed-to-power. Shows good savvy and range dropping and closing in zone coverages.
Patterson is an active defender with good range and athleticism. Big upside given his frame and lack of great run support strength at this stage. Has the tools to develop into a three-down linebacker in time.
We lost a great basketball player today but gained a great football player. I couldn’t be happier about the progression of our football program. Coach Petrino and his staff are at the top of their game, and this thing is on a collision course.
As humpy as this day was for many Cardinal fans it still turned out pretty good. We got a verbal commit from a great football player and the Cardinal 9 keeps rolling on. GO CARDS!
I have wrote several articles about Trey Lewis and his time as a Louisville Basketball player. Those stories often revolved around how many baskets he scored or his dedication to his team and to the Louisville program. But those things are nothing compared to his passion and dedication to his religious beliefs. His faith is an inspiration and it is impressive that a guy his age isn’t afraid to share it with whomever will listen.
We sometimes forget that the trophies we win here on earth are not anything compared to the ones we get when our work here is done. Yes, Salvation is the ultimate trophy. The University of Louisville’s FCA gives athletes like Trey Lewis an opportunity to share their testimony in an attempt to help fellow athletes reach that ultimate prize. There have been many athletes who have accepted Christ into their lives and have been baptized thanks to this program. Sports has the power to change lives but the FCA program has the power to change souls.
I want to send out kudos to Trey Lewis for his powerful testimony and to all those involved with the FCA at the University of Louisville. Thanks to Chaplain Chris Morgan for the work he is doing for the student athletes on campus. Also to those athletes who are being spiritual leaders on and off the field of play using their gifts to bring glory to Christ. We have a great group of athletes to cheer for at the University of Louisville and things like this should not go unnoticed. Kudos again guys!
Be sure to give the University of Louisville Chaplain Chris Morgan a follow on twitter @UofLfca to follow the great work he is doing on the campus and with our student athletes. And I’m sure they would also be thankful for our prayers as well.
On Saturday in Lexington the 49th chapter of the Battle of the Bluegrass was written. For the 34th time it was Kentucky who walked away with the victory. The Wildcats now lead the all-time series 34-15. The Cardinals are now 1-8 against their rivals since John Calipari was hired as their coach and a big reason why is because Kentucky has always done a good job of making sure they win the home games in this rivalry. They did that again on Saturday and to them go the credit.
Our Cardinals lost the battle yesterday and it was a battle, but proved that they do have enough weapons to go to war in the ACC and make a run in March. One and done is always in the discussion when you play Kentucky, but on Saturday it was a done and one who was the best player on the floor. Damion Lee has led the Cardinals all season averaging around 18 points a game and on Saturday he led all scorers in the game with 27 points. In one of the toughest places to go into and perform he outperformed everybody. That last shot didn’t fall but a lot of them are going to this season.
Lee is a great weapon to have going forward but there is also plenty of other ammunition at Coach Pitino’s disposal. The other done and one guy Trey Lewis has also been a big scoring threat this season for the Cardinals. He’s averaged around 15 points a game this season and had 15 on Saturday. The poise and maturity is what stood out the most. At times early in the game on Saturday you could see that deer in the headlights look in every player on the court for the Cardinals except for Lewis. He held things together while everyone else settled in. Having a guy on this team with so much composure is going to be huge down the stretch. Some of those gyms in the ACC are going to be just as loud as or louder than Rupp Arena.
Rebounding is vital especially when you go on the road and in tournament play. Chinanu Onuaku has led the Cardinals in rebounding all season averaging around 8 a game. And he out-rebounded every player on the floor on Saturday with 10 helping the Cardinals out-rebound Kentucky 39-29. Onuaku was clearly a force down low in the game and had his way when he fought for the position. If Onuaku decides that he wants to be elite then he will be. The pedigree is there and the ability and talent are as well. The only thing that can hold Chinanu back is Chinanu. I really believe he will be one of the best big men in the country before this season is over and who doesn’t love that granny shot.
The Louisville bench had scored over 350 points going into the game on Saturday and outscored UK’s bench 19-18. Donovan Mitchell was excellent and was the spark plug that ignited a comeback from 16 down. He was making big-time plays on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor. He is a superior athlete and proved he is ready to give quality minutes in big games moving forward. I was also really impressed with Jaylen Johnson. He keeps getting better. He ran the floor well and has that big man passing ability that coach Pitino loves. And you just can’t say enough about the development of Matz Stockman and Anas Mahmoud. These guys will be two of the premier big men in the ACC next year if they continue down that improvement path. And they will provide quality depth this season moving forward.
There are other guys on the roster that didn’t really bring it on Saturday but who will play a vital role in the coming weeks. The Louisville guys Quentin Snider and Ray Spalding weren’t effective against Kentucky but they both have the ability to have major impacts on a game. Snider’s ability to run the offense and Spalding’s length and athleticism are big time attributes. Deng Adel is just getting back off injury and will be a force on that wing soon enough. Mango will be back in around 6 to 8 weeks hungrier than ever to make another NCAA run.
I’m still very confident in how this season will turn out and I think this early loss in December will give this team a wakeup call. Where Calipari relies more on talent, Pitino has utilized development and his coaching ability to make Louisville successful. He will figure out how to best use the pieces on this team and the team will figure out how to use what they have to their advantage. We have got the nucleus for another Championship run and now the guys just have to keep fighting to find a way to make it all work together. I’m very disappointed in that loss yesterday and I did take it very hard, but the college basketball season is not a sprint it’s a marathon. We got a long way to go until March.