Power in the backcourt

By on November 13, 2013

By Sam Draut

The Louisville Cardinals add three new pieces to the backcourt this year to go along with

senior Russ Smith, junior Kevin Ware, and senior Tim Henderson.

Junior Chris Jones is a junior college transfer from Northwest Florida State College. The

5-foot-10 point guard was the 2013 National Junior College Division Player of the Year by

the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was a two-time first team Junior College

All-American.

“I think Chris is a terrific basketball player, he was the junior college player of the year for

a reason,” Head Coach Rick Pitino said.

The transition from junior college to Division I can be difficult, especially with Jones

taking the reins of the Cardinal offense.

“I’m learning how to play fast all the time and change speeds all the time, and that was the

biggest transition from juco to D 1,” Jones said.

Jones averaged 21.8 points per game last season, he is a known scorer who uses his

strength and speed to get to the rim, but he continues to work on his game.

“I’ve been working on my shot a lot more,” Jones said.

Jones replaces Peyton Siva, a three-year starter who graduated last season after leading U

of L to consecutive Final Fours and a National Championship. Jones’s score-first mentality

is in stark contrast to Siva’s pass-first mindset.

“There’s no pressure on me trying to replace Peyton because we have two different

games,” Jones said. Despite his small stature, Jones averaged 5.1 rebounds per game

“I’ve always been a rebounder,” Jones said.

Freshman Terry Rozier comes from Hargrave Military Academy where he averaged 29.3

points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists in his one year at prep school. Rozier committed to U of

L in September 2011 as a high school senior from Shaker Heights in Cleveland, Ohio, but

then spent a year of prep school to improve his academic standing.

“When Richard recruited him, he thought he was one of the top three or four players in

the country,” Pitino said. Rozier was rated 74th overall in the 2012 ESPNU Top 100 players.

The 6-foot-1 guard will play both point guard and shooting guard during the year.

“He’s a pro, he doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion, he plays every possession just like a

pro would play,” Pitino said.

Defensively, the transition to high school to college can be difficult, but Rozier has the

luxury of defending skilled guards in practice.

“If you don’t play defense you can’t play for this team, so that’s why I want to challenge

myself everyday guarding guys like Russ Smith,” Rozier said.

Similar to Jones, Rozier understands the importance of rebounding from the guard

position.

“Rebounding is not a skill, it’s all about toughness,” Rozier said.

“Terry Rozier has always been a great rebounder, Chris has always been a great

rebounder, so with those two guys, you don’t look at their size, you look at the size of their

heart,” Pitino said. The two talented guards will be interchangeable at either guard spot.

Their versatility will aid Smith and Ware in a crowded backcourt.

“We’ve been playing with a two point system, it’s worked well because both of those

guys are very difficult to guard,” Pitino said. “Those two guys are very talented, and I’m very

pleased, they are exactly what we needed.”

A nearly forgotten member of the backcourt is freshman Anton Gill. The 6-foot-4 guard

attended Hargrave Military Academy last year with Rozier and averaged 28.2 points, 5.3

rebounds and 4.1 assists. Gill and Rozier have a particular comfort level after playing with

each other last season.

“I know everything he is going to do before he does it, and he knows the same about me,

so it’s definitely easier when we are on the floor together,” Gill said. Gill was ranked No. 29

nationally in the Scout.com Top 100, 40th in the ESPN 100, and 48th nationally by Rivals

Top 150, but now he transitions to the college game.

“It’s a totally different game, its faster, guys are stronger, everybody is better. I try to

come off the bench and stay aggressive, I find a lot of open shots because guys like Chris,

Terry, and Russ get into the lane.”

With the injury to senior forward Luke Hancock, Gill could see some time at the small

forward position and has played it during practice.

“It’s a little more difficult because I’m not the strongest guy,” Gill said. “But it’s something

I will keep working on.”

Jones, Rozier, and Gill help to form one of the deepest back courts in the country. The

three newcomers will see crucial minutes throughout the season.

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