U of L Hoopsters Scrimmage; Hookergate Pall Enshrouds

cardsJoe Btfsplk was in the Yum! yesterday during the Cardinals’ first Red/ White preseason scrimmage.

Old fans know of whom I speak. Joe was the character in Al Capp’s comic strip “L’il Abner,” who walked around with dark rain cloud over his head, bringing misery wherever he went.

I’ll get to the play on the court in a second. But, first, I need to address the herd of elephants that have overrun every nook and cranny and corner and crevice and crawlspace of the House of Cardinals.

First, I know nothing specifically about Hookergate, other than what I’ve learned from the televised press conferences Friday night, when the news broke of an upcoming book, alleging money was paid to provide whores for the Card hoopsters and recruits. I have not, and surely shall not, read the book. Life’s too short.

Eric Crawford has. If you want his astute as usual first take, read it here. But be sure to come back and read the rest of what I have to say about it, and yesterday’s scrimmage.

Here’s what I do observe. These are serious accusations. They aren’t going to go away quickly, or easily.

There was a pall over the usually joyous proceedings yesterday — the Btfsplk Effect.

Rick Pitino, who is normally Mr. Microphone at these family affairs, walked in solemnly, when introduced by Sean Moth, silently taking his place at the press table, with nary an acknowledgment of the crowd’s affection.

AD Tom Jurich, a football guy, returned to Louisville, instead of staying in Raleigh for the football battle with N.C. State.

I briefly chatted up Louisville SID Kenny Klein before the game.

“Kenny, how’s everybody holding up?’

Roll of the eyes in response.

“Well, keep the faith. It’s always something, right?”

“This one’s the toughest.”

However the truth or falsity of the salacious allegations play out, this is a major hit to the Cardinal hoops program. There won’t be resolution for awhile. Recruiting shall suffer. It’s not fun.

If I had any insider info, I’d pass it along. I don’t, so there’s nothing to add to what’s out there. Tapping into my quarter century as a prosecutor, my sense of the situation is that there is some there there. I hope not, but . . .

Cardinal fans will just have to take a deep breath, enjoy the now, and hope for the best.

 * * * * *

As for the action on the court itself, allow me to start with my usual caveat.

I observe with an untrained eye. Pitino and his staff see things I don’t.

That said, here are some quick thoughts.1

Damion Lee & Trey Lewis. RP has done a lot of summertime talking about this duo of 5th year transfers, how valuable and important they’re going to be for this otherwise relatively young squad. Lee likes to score . . . a lot. He has a quick release, and is always looking for points. He went 6/20 from the field, and left me with the impression that he’ll not be much of a factor in games when his shot’s not dropping.

Lewis is short, and his play yesterday was relatively inconsequential. He had but a single assist on the day (both halves). He was 3/13 from the field.

My less than expert opinion is that they’ll see fewer minutes on the hardwood as the season progresses, and the youngsters find their footing. Though, if Lee is the scoring machine he proved to be last season against significantly lesser competition, he’ll be on the court throughout.

Free Throw Shooting. The Cards shot 46/61 from the charity stripe. That’s 75+%.

The newcomers, as a group, have a nice touch at the line.

Chinanu Onuaku now shoots his the old fashioned, underhanded way. It’s an improvement.2

Anas Mahmoud. As he did last year during the team’s first public scrimmage, he impressed. With his sense of the court. His intuitive passing. And action around the rim. He looked especially sweet, when draining a little running sweep hook, and when blocking a jumper in the corner.

Jaylen Johnson. He was especially active under the rim. He tallied three follow tips, scored a trey and grabbed ten boards during the first half action. He plays with energy. And, as is his coach’s wont, is on the way to achieving the low body fat % that shall please The Rick.

Deng Adel. He’s a pretty deft ball handler for a 6-7 wing, leading the fast break on several occasions. He’s got hops, scored a monster one handed fast break jam. He’s more than an athlete, he’s a basketball player.3

Donovan Mitchell. Apparently he really shone during the second half, which I didn’t see. What I did see was a very athletic fellow, and one who sees the court. He made a great no look feed to Adel on one fast break. There is a steady unflappability about him on the court.

Quentin Snider. He will be the Cardinals’ point guard. He always has his head up, observing the court. He plays with a far greater intensity than his muted demeanor would indicate.

Ray Spalding. My feelings about the Trinity grad have always been colored negatively by the absolutely awful AAU  game I saw him play last summer. I was wrong. The kid’s a baller. He has great instincts, runs the floor like a gazelle and should be serious shot blocker.

Onuaku committed eight fouls during the half I saw.4

Matz Stockman. All blather by RP notwithstanding, this Norwegian shall never be a contributor of sinificance in a U of L uniform.

Ryan McMahon. He appeared somewhat overwhelmed by the whole scene. It is said he’ll redshirt, which wouldn’t surprise. What I noticed is, despite the fact that he needs to bulk up a bit, his legs are really sturdy. Which is a good thing for shooters, which he is supposed to be.

David Levitch. If this kid had a scintilla of athleticism, he’d be all-conference. He understands the game, can shoot, rarely makes any mistakes of judgement. He’s All Glue Team. Somewhere along the way, he’ll win a game — or two or more — for U of L in a reserve role.

Mango Mathiang. He didn’t play due to a minor injury.

Despite a late surge, in the opening game, the White team — Lee, Snider, Lewis, Johnson, Henderson, McMahon & Onuaku (First Unit?) — fell by 13, 49-36. The Reds  — Spalding, Mahmoud, Adel, Levitch, Mitchell & Avare — were way more energetic from the get go, keeping the older guys measured.

All in all, I feel more optimistic about this bunch, than I did watching the little I could see of their games in Puerto Rico.

— Seedy K


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