Tag Archives: basketball

Photo courtesy of thecardinalconnect.com

Tall recruiting class comes in with big responsibilities

By Sam Draut

Three of Louisville’s incoming freshman participated in the 41st Derby Festival Basketball Classic at Freedom Hall.

Quentin Snider, a local prospect from Ballard High School was named MVP after leading his team with nine assists and eight points.

With the graduation of Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson and the departure of Kevin Ware and Chane Behanan, Louisville reloaded with six recruits from the 2014 recruiting class.

“This will be one of better classes we have signed at the University of Louisville,” Coach Rick Pitino said.

Shaqquan Aaron headlines Pitino’s top-five-rated 2014 recruiting class.  The Seattle native is rated the 33rd best player in the country by ESPN, receiving offers from Arizona, UCLA, UNLV and USC among others.

Aaron is a six-foot-seven wing with the ability to play multiple positions.  Along with his athleticism and length, Aaron handles and distributes the ball well.

“He is a very well coached winner,” Pitino said. “He has unbelievable potential, I just love this young man’s game.”

Offensively, he is a gifted scorer who can create his own shot by slashing to the rim while his jump shot continues to improve.

At just 175 pounds, Aaron will need to add to his frame to compete in the ACC.

Quentin Snider ended up sticking with his hometown team after an odd recruiting process that went on throughout his high school career.

Snider committed to Louisville during his sophomore year, but then de-committed the summer going into his senior year.  Snider committed to Illinois in the fall, but signed with Louisville in November.

“At the last second, he had second thoughts, he always wanted to be a Louisville Cardinal,” Pitino said.

The six-foot-one point guard handles the ball well and should run the offense effectively.  Snider shoots the ball well off the catch and the dribble and also has the ability to streak by slower defenders to the rim.

He was ranked the 40th player in the 2014 recruiting class by ESPN.

Chinanu Onuaku chose Louisville over Georgetown, Connecticut, and Miami among others.  ESPN ranked him as the 75th best player in the 2014 recruiting class while Scout.com ranked him as the ninth best center.

His brother Arinze Onuaku played four years at Syracuse from 2006-10 averaging 9.2 points per game.

Similar to his brother, Onuaku is a strong rebounder whose primary impact comes on the defense end of the floor.  In the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, he had seven points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

“He is physically ready, unlike the other guys he is physically ready, he doesn’t have to put on a lot of weight,” Pitino said. “He has great upside.”

Onuaku will continue to work on his offensive game, but with his six-foot-ten, 232-pound frame, he should be able to body with other bigs early on.

Anas Osama Mahmoud was a late addition to the Cardinals recruiting class, signing his letter of intent on March 3.

The seven-foot-one center was ranked as the 99th-best player by ESPN.  Mahmoud is long and athletic, but at just 197 pounds, he will need to bulk up to defend heavier players in the post.

The Egyptian native chose Louisville over Georgia Tech and Minnesota.

Jaylen Johnson is a six-foot-nine power forward ranked 14th nationally at his position by Scout.com.  In the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, Johnson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

Johnson, who chose Louisville over Iowa State, Maryland, and Cincinnati among others, is an athletic forward still developing his face-up game.

“He is something we really needed.  He is long, he scores, he is an excellent defensive player.  Everything we want in a stretch four is exactly what he is,” Pitino said.

The biggest mystery in the Cardinals 2014 recruiting class is Norwegian center Matz Stockman.  The seven-foot-two big man signed with Louisville on November 19 as a relatively unknown name.

“He has great touch, he is a left hander, great wingspan, seven,” Pitino said.

Rated as the 19th-best center in the 2014 recruiting class by ESPN, Stockman has shown ample ability on the offensive end, but will need to continue to develop his game.

Photo by Austin Lassell

The Monster is back: Harrell returns for junior year

By Noah Allison

Card Nation held its breath awaiting an announcement from forward Montrezl Harrell on whether he would declare for the NBA draft or return for his junior season. A first year in the ACC without him could have proven quite long and frustrating, but alas the youngest of this last year’s captains has returned and no rim is safe.

After averaging 14 points and eight rebounds as a sophomore Harrell was named the AAC’s most-improved player. His 98 dunks shattered Louisville’s single-season dunk record of 59 and his 12 double-doubles and 311 rebounds led the Cardinals.

With one simple announcement the spirits and attitudes for next year took a giant leap forward.

“I’m ready.” Harrell said. “I’m ready to get back into the gym with my team and with my coach and prepare to have another great season. If the young guys come in prepared to work we still have a good core group of guys that were on the team this year and we have a lot of experience from this year coming back.”

Harrell will be the prominent big-man on a roster that along with returning red-shirt sophomore center Mangok Mathiang at six-foot ten, boasts a lot of height.

At center the Cardinals bring in seven-foot-two Matz Stockman, seven-foot-one Anas Osama Mahmoud and six-foot-ten Chinanu Onuaku. Backing up Harrell is six-foot-nine power forward Jaylen Johnson.

At six-foot-eight, 235 pounds Harrell may be the shortest of the group but is undoubtedly the biggest. His tenacious work ethic and relentless motor is what separates Harrell from the competition and its nothing but beneficial for this young squad of bigs to learn from the best.

“I feel like with the work ethic I have and the way that I compete those guys will come along,” Harrell said. “I can tell you first hand being a freshman coming in here that first week and a half kicked my butt. It comes to a point where you just get tired of it and you go to work from there. I feel like those guys will follow behind me and try to do some of the same things I’m doing and just work as hard as I am.”

Working as hard as Harrell is easier said than done. There is a reason Harrell made such a big improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. But Harrell isn’t just coming back and getting better for his draft stock. As the face of this program now he is getting better to keep the standard of Louisville basketball.

“Coming back I know I am going to have to play a huge role in our program and I’m fine with that. I’m fine with being one of the go-to players on the team and that doesn’t faze me, that just gives me extra motivation to work,” Harrell continues. “Having that spotlight is really an honor so you just have to take it and use it as motivation to get better.”

A returning captain Harrell joins up with senior forward Wayne Blackshear to captain this squad into the ACC. With a year of leadership experience under his belt Harrell carries with him first hand experience of being a part of championship basketball and will not shy away from expecting it.

“Honestly I am just one of those guys who are going to try to tell it like it is. I’m not trying to sugar coat anything because when you’re out there we are all playing for the same thing, to win the game,” Harrell said. “If someone is not doing something right and I feel they should know better on what they’re doing then I am going to be the one to speak on it. I am going to hold everybody accountable including myself.”

Harrell returning gives the Cardinals a chance to have a starting rotation of all returning players. The six freshmen coming in and returning bench players will all have to step up.

Harrell is the difference maker on this team and with it likely being his last season there is no doubt that he has more than just personal growth on the mind. A chance at another national championship is hard for any competitor to pass up.

“I feel like I can get back to another one, with the team that we have everybody just has to get to work in the gym, listen to what Coach P says and buy into the program,” Harrell concludes. “If guys come in willing to work and get better than there is no telling what we can do.”

Photo by Tricia Stern

Kevin Ware transfers to Georgia State

By Noah Allison

Junior guard Kevin Ware has found his new home and it’s in a familiar place. Ware will be returning to his home in Atlanta, Ga. to play for Ron Hunter’s Georgia State Panthers.

Ware, the six-foot-two guard, only played nine games in the 2014 season before reinjuring his leg against Missouri State.

Ware was granted a medical red-shirt and still has two years of eligibility left to play.

Georgia State is a member of the Sun Belt conference. The Panthers went 25-9 overall with a 17-1 in-conference record. They went on to lose to Clemson in the NIT.

Ware will be joining a number of prominent transfers on Georgia State’s current roster. Most notable is former Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow who along with Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter played as one of the best mid-major back courts.

Along with Harrow Georgia State got considerable contribution from former Virginia Tech transfer Manny Atkins who led the Panthers in rebounds. USC transfer Curtis Washington was second on the Panthers in rebounds.

Ware is starting anew among many teammates who also took the non-traditional college route.

The Panthers of Georgia State return a full roster of talented players who were able to compete adamantly in their respective conference.

The storybook ending to Ware’s story would have had him remain at Louisville, but nothing can be changed now.

Kevin Ware is now a Panther and will finish his collegiate career at Georgia State. After breaking his leg against Duke in the Elite Eight nobody wanted anything more than to bring Kevin home to Atlanta. Now he is home, and hopefully can get back to the court.

Photo courtesy of cardinal authority.com

Asia Taylor reflects on her time on the court

By Asia Taylor
It was always a dream of mine to play college basketball. I honestly didn’t think it was a option for because of financial concerns until my sophomore year in high school. The recruiting process was very exciting for me I had a lot of scholarship offers I could have went to almost any school. There was just something special about Louisville that stood out and I’m glad I chose here.
It has been a rollercoaster 5 years for me. Last year The doctors found a tear in my left hip and I had to have a surgery in the offseason that set me back 9months causing me to miss all of last season. So for our great regular season, final four and championship run, I was on the sidelines as a cheerleader not a player. It was rough time for me to not be able to play but I used it as motivation for my work in this offseason. I have become a much Better player because of that year I sat out.
This year as a senior I am a starter, team captain and one of the leaders on this team. I come to play and practice everyday like it could be my last and I try my hardest to lead by example.
We have made history this year for this women’s program and I am so blessed to say that I was a effective part of it. Longest winning streak in school history, best record in school history, I’ve reached career highs in points, assists and rebounds, and we’ve made history in so many more categories I can’t remember. (Maybe you can find the rest) but overall this has been an amazing year for me and I’ve enjoyed every single second of it. The NCAA tournament has started back up for us this year and we are no longer going to be an underdog because of last years success. Getting A 3 seed instead of a 2 or 1 was our motivation to push harder to show that last year wasn’t just for show and that we are here to make another statement. Our motto for this whole year has been “Unfinished Business” because we want to get back to the National Championship game and Finish it off with a win this time! I just hope CardNation will Follow and support us on our journey.
Photo by Austin Lassell

Game on, one super sweet sixteen matchup of Louisville and Kentucky

By Noah Allison

Last year Louisville won the National Championship, the year before that Kentucky took home the crown. Now this next game may not be the National Championship, but for the epicenter of college basketball, this U of L v. UK Sweet Sixteen is the ultimate best two-out-of-three match.

For a Louisville fan it was hard to watch the round of 32-matchup between undefeated Wichita State and vaunted rival Kentucky without feeling a bit nervous. The game had the intensity, flow and high caliber play of a national championship. Kentucky overcame a tough regular season and was able to shock the Shockers 78-76 to advance. Now the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis will play host to another chapter in the Louisville v. Kentucky basketball rivalry, with everything under the sun on the line.

In late December the then one loss Cardinals travelled to Rupp to take on Kentucky where they fell 73-66.  Those few months feel like a lifetime ago though, with both teams finding their identity and classically hitting their strides at the right time.

In the loss at Rupp Kentucky’s length and size gave Louisville trouble, the Cats outrebounded the Cards 44-36. The size of the two teams hasn’t changed since then, Kentucky doesn’t start a person shorter than six-foot-six. Louisville’s backcourt size of Chris Jones, five-foot-eight and Russ Smith, six-foot, could create problems. Not too mention Kentucky’s two seven-foot tall centers compared to Louisville’s six-ten Stephan Van Treese and six-eleven Mangok Mathiang.

But if there is one thing about Louisville v. Kentucky it’s that you can throw common sense and tales of the tape out the window, this is no mere game. The energy of the moment takes over and it’s all about who is going to refuse to lose.

At Rupp the Cards took the lead with just under ten minutes to play. The games leading scorer was Louisville shooting guard Russ Smith with 19 points, but he went totally dry and did not score a point in the last seven minutes of the game.

Smith leads the Cards in scoring with 650 points, assists with 169 and free throw attempts with 207.  He has yet to look excellent in the tournament thus far, but he has done everything the Cards have needed out of him in order to win. Against Saint Louis Smith’s shot was not falling, so instead he relentlessly attacked the basket to draw fouls and get to the line. Smith scored 11 points against Saint Louis, five of which coming from the line. He also had seven assists to get the rest of the team involved.

Louisville cannot imagine beating Kentucky without Russ Smith stepping up, he doesn’t have to play out of his mind and he doesn’t need to try and score forty, that is what Russ has learned. But he does need to play great, whether that is via assists, steals, drawing fouls, or heck Russ, go ahead and score forty.

Kentucky is a veracious rebounding team with seven different players pulling down at least 100 rebounds on the season, and the Cats are led by freshman power forward Julius Randle who has 383 on the season. Randle also leads the Cats in scoring with 542 points. It will be a scheme and team effort for the Cardinals to stop Randle, but the brunt of the load will be put on the shoulders of Louisville’s own phenomenal power forward, sophomore Montrezl Harrell.

During that first matchup the Cardinals still had forward Chane Behanan, he was permanently dismissed from the team following that game. Since then Harrell has more than risen to the challenge of being the team’s big man. Harrell leads the Cardinals in rebounds with 303 and is tied for most blocks with 49. Harrell is quite simply a monster, his drive and work ethic has him an entirely different and far better basketball player than the first time these two teams met. It will be a clash of titans with Harrell and Randle on the court and maybe physicists will be able to watch and study to see what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object.

Perhaps the biggest difference from that game to this upcoming one is the health and play of Louisville forward Luke Hancock. Hancock had yet to get his first start and was still troubled by an Achilles tendon injury during the early season loss. Hancock has since proven to be everything the Cardinals already know him to be, dependable. In the opening round battle with Manhattan Hancock scored the last eight points to break the hearts of the upset hungry Jaspers. He followed it up with scoring the Cards’ first eight points against Saint Louis, he led all scorers with 21 points in that game.

Luke is the MVP of the Final Four and the reason the Cards won the Championship. In Indianapolis when 30,000 people looked away in fright at the sight of Kevin Ware’s broken leg, Luke didn’t hesitate one moment before joining his brother’s side to say a prayer and get him through the horrifying moment. The Luke the Cats saw in December is not the Luke they will see in Lucas Oil Stadium.

But those are the players that have stepped up all year and there is no doubt the Cards can’t win without them. It is going to be Stephan Van Treese bringing the hustle, Mangok Mathiang getting key blocked shots, Terry Rozier bringing stability, Wayne Blackshear bringing the situational plays and Chris Jones bringing his big game potential that is going to make the difference.

Kentucky is playing their best basketball right now and they are knocking down shots at a higher rate then they did all regular season. They feel on top of the world and know that they deserve to be in this situation. They’re young enthusiasm can be their key or their kryptonite.

Rick Pitino is undefeated in Sweet Sixteen games, and these Cards have been there and done that. It’s a tale of NBA talent versus championship experience, but as far as anybody in Louisville and the state of Kentucky are concerned, it’s just game on.

 

Luke Hancock

Cards swat SLU Billikens away to reach Sweet 16

Luke Hancock

By Annie Moore–

The University of Louisville basketball team defeated St. Louis University 66-51 Saturday afternoon, in a game that was anything but perfect, to advance to its third-consecutive Sweet 16. Both teams struggled to get started on offense until Louisville found its rhythm in the waning minutes of the second half.

 

“We said we had to be the prettiest team in an ugly game,” said Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino. “We just wanted to grind out a W, we grinded it out, and that’s what the NCAA tournament is all about.”

 

Luke Hancock had a leading performance for the Cardinals, the senior forward scored Louisville’s first eight points, and led all scorers with 21 points on the day.

 

Defense played a huge part in Louisville’s victory, especially its effort to stop Saint Louis from scoring the three-point shot. The Billikens were 0-15 from outside the arc and shot just 39.6% from the field.

 

“We were going to smother the three,” Pitino said. “We felt that if we gave up the three, we could lose the game today. So, we were going to take that away. We were going to hang our hat on taking away the three.”

Senior guard Russ Smith shared Pitino’s sentiment, noting his teams’ defensive maturation throughout this tournament, and this game.

 

“I think our defense got better at communicating,” Smith said. “Everything just went up a notch, Saint Louis is a great team, but we did a good job of locking it in the last fifteen minutes.”

 

Smith had 11 points and three rebounds on the day, but struggled offensively in the first half. His only field goal of the half came with just 45 seconds left before the break.

 

Offensive struggles continued for the Cards in the beginning of the second half, Louisville didn’t make a field goal until six minutes into the half. The Billikens tied it up with 14:33 left in the game, and the teams traded baskets for the following minutes, until Louisville started to pull away with 10 minutes remaining.

 

A three-pointer from Hancock put the Cards up six with 10:51 left, and it was all Louisville from there. Smith, Chris Jones and Montrezl Harrell all had shots down the stretch to secure the Cards’ lead.

 

Louisville advances to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis  to play the University of Kentucky Friday at 9:45 p.m..  Cardinal fans will doubtless be heading north on Interstate 65 for the game . SStay tuned as the Cardinal brings you unparalelled coverage of the NCAA Tournament from a student’s perspective.

 

Photo by Austin Lassell

Five long years culminating for Van Treese

By Sam Draut

Stephan Van Treese won’t be a thousand-point scorer or rank among the top rebounders in Louisville history, but the fifth year senior has contributed during the most successful era in the Cardinal program since the early 1980’s.

Van Treese came to Louisville from Indianapolis in 2009.  He was ranked 67th nationally by USA Today and was an AP All-State selection.

Though he played sparingly as a freshman, Van Treese first left his mark as a hustle man when he came off the bench against UConn and had a steal and layup, helping to trigger the Cardinals to an 82-69 victory in front of a sold out Freedom Hall crowd.

“As a freshman I showed everyone I could come off the bench and be a spark.  I have tried to do that throughout my career,” Van Treese said.

During his sophomore year, Van Treese began to see expanded minutes, starting 12 games and appearing in 33 contests.  He averaged 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in Big East Conference games and shot 70.5 percent from the field during conference play.

Van Treese struggled with injuries his junior year in 2011-12, Louisville’s first trip to the Final Four since 2005.

But, last season Van Treese played big minutes during Louisville’s run to the National Championship.

“Last year I came off the bench and contributed, I backed up Gorgui (Dieng),” Van Treese said.

Van Treese averaged 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, which was second best to Dieng.  In the Big East tournament against Villanova, Van Treese pulled in eight rebounds.  He averaged 3.7 rebounds in nine postseason contests.

Now in his final season at Louisville, the 6-foot-9 forward is playing 20.2 minutes per game and pulling in 5.1 rebounds a contest.

“Everything has slowed down in a sense, I know what to expect,” Van Treese said. “I know what to expect throughout the season.”

In the past eight games Van Treese has 49 rebounds, averaging 8.2 rebounds and four points per game.

“Physically I have gotten much bigger and I have gotten more confident in my game being able to play more,” Van Treese said. “This year I have been filling in the role I’m supposed to — being a hustler.”

As a senior, Van Treese has shared the five spot with redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang, but even with the shared playing time, he sees the two putting forth a collective effort.

“It is not just me, it is me and Mangok. We have to be rebounding and doing the defensive things for the bigs,” Van Treese said. “We don’t have to put up big scoring numbers, but we do need to score when we have the opportunity.”

With a Final Four and National Championship under his belt, Van Treese has a strict idea of what happens next.

“Winning it all is the main goal, we want to continue our win streak and go into the conference tournament and win that.  We want to get a good seed,” Van Treese said.

“It has been a grind,” Van Treese said.  “This is my fifth year and hopefully it is another successful year.”

And if he needs a career tidbit besides winning basketball games, Van Treese is the final player to suit up for the Louisville program to play in Freedom Hall as a Cardinal.

Doubleblock

Smith’s last-second shot lifts Cardinals past Bearcats, 58-57

By Noah Allison

The Cardinals of this year have needed a spark, a moment where magic is made possible and adopted as a part of the game plan. On Saturday in Cincinnati it finally came, with 2.2 seconds left senior guard Russ Smith hit the game-winning jumper to seal the deal at 58-57.

            Sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell led the Cards with 21 points and ten rebounds in his double-double effort. Freshman guard Terry Rozier was second with his 11 points, also contributing six rebounds and two assists. Smith overall had 10 points, five assists and three steals and rebounds.

            For the number 11 Cardinals, now 23-4, beating the number seven Bearcats gave them their first win against a ranked opponent on the season. All year long the story of the season has been the Cardinals beating the teams they were supposed, and failing to win the marquis match-ups.

            “It was a great win for us, like Connecticut, like Kentucky this was a very difficult crowd to battle,” Pitino said.

            The Cards jumped out to a 21-9 lead mid-way through the first half. The Louisville defense stepped up throughout the game forcing clutch and timely turnovers and keeping the Bearcats out of the paint. UC hit 16 of 56 shots, shooting at 28.6 percent through the game.

            “I gave them the same speech today that I gave them before Wichita State last year. The better defensive team will win the game tonight,” Pitino said. “

            Louisville shot at 40 percent through the game and saw senior forward Luke Hancock and red-shirt freshman Mangok Mathiang foul out. The game was gritty, the crowd was rowdy and it started to have a familiar feel to the four losses the Cardinals have suffered.

            The Cards saw their 21-9 lead dissipate and their second half lead of 47-37 turn into a 53-51 deficit. In the last moments it seemed as if everything could go wrong for the Cards again, but alas, they won.

            Without the game savvy of Hancock available for the last shot it is undoubtedly a moment of growth for this team. Smith made plays that he may not have made in the past.

            “This is my first game winning shot that I can remember,” Smith said. “I don’t think that I’ve ever hit a bigger shot than this. I’ve always been clumsy with the ball or done something ignorant with the ball. I’m just happy down the stretch I was able to make plays. Not the shot, but finding Montrezl two times down the court to keep us in it. That was the maturity I was looking for when I decided to come back.”   

            Pitino’s Cardinals have now won six games in a row. The energy level is rising and the spirit that this team needs is resonating through The Ville. The facial hair of Louisville shall continue growing for another day.

            Russ Smith is a hero, but this team won as a unit. When heads hung, they picked each other up. When somebody needed to make a play, the play was made. For the first time all year, Cardinal fans saw what they’ve seen in the past. A team that in the end; wins.

            “Luke, one of our captains, before the game said that we are going to face adversity. But we have to stick together no matter what happens,” Rozier said. “And that’s what we did.”

Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal