By Conner Farrell and Dalton Ray —
With the loss of leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, men’s basketball must replace its top scorer. Not only was Mitchell the leading scorer, but the ball went through his hands every possession.
Luckily for Louisville, they can turn to star junior Deng Adel to replace Mitchell’s production. The 2017-18 tri-captain will navigate U of L through an uncertain season.
The status of captain doesn’t change much for Adel.
“I come into the gym every day with the same attitude: To get better,” Adel said. “A lot of the younger guys follow me. No matter what happens, when you get in the gym, that’s your gateway.”
Adel said he has looked to past players such as a Mitchell and Mangok Mathiang for words of wisdom on a leadership role.
The junior returns after testing the NBA Draft waters this spring and getting feedback from a host of NBA teams.
Projected as second round pick, NBA scouts considered Adel as a quality player with adequate rebounding and scoring ability. The negatives included his lack of ability to score off the dribble and ball handling.
Ultimately, according to Adel, he chose to return because he didn’t want to rush his decision. The goal for Adel is to become a first round pick.
“I want to have more consistency on my jump shot,” Adel said. “I want to have the same approach and same productivity every night. I want to lead this team.”
As a junior, Adel will be the go-to player for the Cardinals on both sides of the court. By becoming the go-to guy, Adel will have the opportunity to prove if he’s the first round draft pick he strives to be.
In the past two seasons, Adel has dazzled fans with elite athleticism, an ability to relentlessly drive the lane and the skills to be a force on both ends of the court.
While it comes off as easy now, that wasn’t always the case for the wiry 6-foot-7 forward.
Coming into Louisville, Adel was seen as an elite perimeter defender and a project on the offensive side of the court.
Following a stellar end to his injury-laden freshman season, the sky seemed like the limit for Adel entering 2016-17.
The team maintained a top 15 ranking for most of the season, enjoying signature wins on the way to earning a two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Adel shined late in last season’s campaign. The Cards’ most consistent scorer in the final six games averaging 16.3 points and 4.2 rebounds and shooting 53.8 percent from the field, including 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
Heading into 2017-18, Adel’s ball-handling and offensive consistency must improve to keep the Cardinals afloat.
Adel won’t be asked too much to initiate the offensive thanks to senior point guard Quentin Snider, but Adel’s ability to secure the ball has been an issue since his arrival.
Consistency has been prevalent throughout his previous two seasons. Hitting shooting slumps has been hallmark of his game, but being the go-to guy this season may eliminate that.
This team will go as far as Deng Adel pushes them.
As Adel hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Cardinals like Terry Rozier and Mitchell. The path looks promising for the 2017-18 men’s basketball captain.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal