By Randy Whetstone Jr.–
After a remarkable run to win a national championship, the University of Louisville men’s basketball will build a team to hopefully enhance its chances to reach a third final four in a row for the 2013-14 season. Cardinal fans wiped their foreheads in relief after junior guard Russ Smith opted out of entering the NBA draft to return for a senior season. The Cards will look to him as their primary offensive weapon and unveiled the position to him as leader. Louisville will have all of their players returning from the championship team besides Peyton Siva who will be graduating and Gorgui Dieng who will enter the NBA Draft. The question is who has Coach Rick Pitino brought in for next season to add to the talent he already has?
The Cardinals will be getting some dynamic players in the backcourt. Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, and Anton Gill are at the pinnacle of the recruiting class. Chris Jones from Northwest Florida State College in Memphis Tennessee is listed at 5 feet 10 inches, 195 pounds and is the number one ranked Junior College player in the nation. Jones likes to push the tempo on the offensive end, attributing to the style of play Pitino is accustomed to. He seems to be the perfect replacement in terms of talent for Peyton Siva. A slight advantage he may have is his strength. Jones played high school basketball with Kevin Ware. As prayers continue to go out to Kevin for a speedy recovery, there should be plenty of harmony and cohesion from these two when he returns to the hardwood.
Terry Rozier from Hargrave Military Academy in Shaker Heights, Ohio is a five-star recruit according to ESPN. He is 6 feet 1 inch, 165 pounds. Rozier is a gifted player who plays with heart and sure will. He has great athleticism and an incredible scoring ability for a point guard. He will certainly spark enthusiasm for the team as a freshman; he displayed an impressive performance his last visit to Louisville scoring 68 points. After a year of prep school, Rozier went from being a four star recruit to being a Top 20 prospect. With mild concerns in decision making and strength, the coaching staff will equip Rozier to fit perfectly in the system.
At the shooting guard position, 6 feet 3 inches, 185 pounds. Anton Gill is ranked number 44 in the ESPN Top 100. The lefty is the 10th ranked shooting guard in the nation. Gill will come off the bench for Russ Smith and Kevin Ware. He is an above the rim player and appears as if he is jumping off a trampoline when dunking the basketball. Gill is a great ball handler and can push the ball in transition. One of his weaknesses is his shooting ability. Anton is from Raleigh, North Carolina and played basketball with Rozier at Hargrave Military Academy. The two have chemistry and Gill embraces the harmony with his teammate, “I know for me personally, he pushes me everyday. In practice we push each other, we always working. He’s really helped me push myself”. It’s an advantage for these two recruits to be playing together right now as they soon become Cardinals, “I think it would be good for us next year. We both are going to be freshman and come in and play a lot of minutes. The better our chemistry is now, the better chance we have to be successful next year. We really know how to make each other’s job easier. Hopefully we can transition that to next year, to help out with the team they have now.”
The Cardinals will add more size in the front court with 6 feet 9 inches, 240 pounds. Akoy Agau. The power forward is from Omaha, Nebraska and played high school basketball for Omaha Central High School. He also is ranked in ESPN Top 100 at number 76. Agau will contribute to the front court with his rebounding ability. He confidently shoots a 15-19-feet jump shot as well. Agau is a champion winning four straight Class A state championships in Nebraska. That experience and mindset should fit well with the defending national championships.
The Cardinals have the eighth ranked recruiting class in the nation according to ESPN. The team is experienced and will look to implement the incoming recruits into their recent success. In-state arch rival Kentucky has arguably the best recruiting class in history; stirring up to be an epic rivalry game in Rupp Arena. Louisville has a strong bid to be ranked preseason Top 5, and prepares to defend their title.
Photos courtesy of espn.com