By Noah Allison–
With the men’s basketball season over, fifth-year senior transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee’s positive impact is clear. On a roster with 11 freshmen and sophomores, Lewis and Lee filled a void of experience, talent and leadership.
“Damion and Trey taught them how to be men,” head coach Rick Pitino said. “Not young men, they taught them how to be men. They taught them how to act around other people, how to treat people with kindness and generosity, to carry themselves with class, how to articulate the right way. They’re special guys, they don’t come along very often like this. I can say, coaching 41 years, there aren’t many like these two.”
The two benefitting the most from their presence were the guys backing them up on the bench. Freshman guard Donovan Mitchell and freshman forward Deng Adel were directly behind the two seniors on the depth charts and will play on in the two seniors’ likeness.
Mitchell had huge contributions throughout the year, pivotal swing plays and highlight reel dunks. Backing up Lewis, Mitchell averaged 19 minutes a game and started five games. Mitchell shot 45 percent from the field and averaged 7.3 points per game. He finished the year with 98 rebounds, 22 steals and finished fourth with 51 assists.
“If you would have told me I’d be this confident after the Bellarmine game (first scrimmage of the season) I definitely wouldn’t have believed you,” Mitchell said. “They helped me mature a lot. Growing up I liked playing in big moments but I tended to get carried away, I used all of my energy at once. They taught me how to mature and relax, to stay focused at the task at hand.”
The final stretch of the season saw Adel emerge as the player everyone knew he could be. Overcoming a knee injury early in the season, Adel had eight starts and averaged 12 minutes per game. He shot 48 percent from the field and averaged 4.1 points per game.
“One of the main things was working on my jump shot, just get arc on my jump shot. It took awhile but over time, now I am confident in it and all that work I put in has paid off,” Adel said.
Ending the year with five straight starts, Adel acknowledges how big the playing time to end the year was for him heading into the off-season.
“It just helps with my confidence. Next year I can come in knowing what to expect, just that experience is huge because next year we aren’t going to have many guys with experience,” Adel said.
“Just having the opportunity has been great. When the season is over I have to come back and look at the film and see where I can improve, speak to the coaches of what I need to work on and just get in the gym. It doesn’t stop for me, I need to get in the gym and get better for next year.”
Adel also knows having Lee play ahead of him was huge for his development. “He’s taught me how to handle the pressure. Just slowing the game down for myself and not going too fast and reading the defense, especially on off-ball screens, reading the defense and reacting to them,” Adel said.
Mitchell is excited about his and Adel’s growth through the season. He has worked side by side with Adel and they are ready to be the future. “That’s what I love about the fact that next year you are going to have me and him (Adel) side by side,” Mitchell said.
“One of the best things about this is we (freshmen) all came in a very highly rated class,” Adel said.
“It’s definitely been good for us to be able to take a backseat and learn from these guys. We can take in some of the things they’ve done well, work on them in the off-season and come in next year ready to play Louisville basketball.”