Category Archives: Basketball

The Recruiting Elephant in the Room

The air throughout the Ville smells like Cardinal Spirit.

Fans who had jumped ship are returning. Acolytes who never left are energized again like the halcyon days.

Here we are now, entertain us.

The focus is turning by any observation to recruiting generally, to one legacy, albeit a generation removed, specifically.

Like his father before him, one DJ Wagner, Camden HS Class of ’23, is viewed by many as the Second Coming. (At least the Third, or Next. Westley Unseld was obviously First. Darrell Griffith, the Second.)

More reasonable minds understand, as great a baller as Milt’s grandson may be, he probably is not transformational for the U of L program. Other than, as any *****, Top 20 recruit would be for this once proud program to get back to where it once belonged.

We’re not talking a Danny Manning here. Unless he happens to maybe be a Carmelo Anthony.

 * * * * *

So, I ask all who might be obsessed with this consideration to gather round, and allow me to once again tell the informational tale of one Winford Gladstone Boynes III. Continue reading The Recruiting Elephant in the Room

Nolan Smith Comes Back Home

Spoiler Alert: The only addition to Coach Kenny Payne’s staff announced at U of L Basketball’s Monday press conference was the one we already knew about, Nolan Smith. Meaning the following contains essentially no breaking news about other members of the staff or roster changes.

Early in the presser, one anxious scribe, poised to jump the gun — guilty — inquired, when we might expect announcements about others on the staff?

To which fellow, KP gently chided that the question was premature, saying, “Good timing. I just hit a home run.”

Sufficiently chastised, allow me this observation: Nolan Smith checks all the boxes.

In fraternity parlance, he’s a legacy. He lived in Louisville until he was six, attending preschool at The Temple, then summered here through his youth. His father, you may have heard, was a starter for U of L’s first title team in ’80.

He’s intelligent and articulate. He’s a family man with an engaging wife Cheyna, a daughter and son.

To this point, he was tutored in his coaching career by the GOAT, at Duke, where Smith was an All-American and national champion.

Sitting in the jam-packed conference room, the inner Cardinal diehard in me had goose bumps.

Actually, truth be told, what I felt was verklempt.

This whole Kenny Payne/ Nolan Smith reformulation of University of Louisville Basketball Just Feels Right. Continue reading Nolan Smith Comes Back Home

Finally, A Voice Breaks The Silence

If you are an obsessive compulsive Cardinal fan like me, you’ve been checking various sources several, many, times a day.

Hoping for some sort of official confirmation about Nolan Smith coming to U of L as Kenny Payne’s Associate Head Coach. And, maybe, hopefully, some word about others. Players. Coaches.

C’mon, c’mon, we’re jonesin’ here.

Finally.

There’s this acknowledgement at andscape.com in Jerry Bembry’s interview with Smith.

The future member of the Cardinal family discusses his decision.

He talks about how close he came to playing for the Cards, and why he didn’t.

And, he discusses Mike Krzyzewski’s advice regarding his move to Louisville.

Now, will somebody please get him some correctly colored shirts.

— c d kaplan

Hoopaholic’s FF E2: Off the Court Ponderings

Trying to deal with severe withdrawal symptoms, awaiting anxiously all the news that will be breaking about the Louisville Cardinals men’s program in weeks and months to come, a few last morsels of snark from last weekend’s Last Weekend.

Every time I look at Bill Self, I wonder: Is he wearing a toupee?

Always thought so.

A few years back, I presented the question in the media room before a game. It was universal that my supposition was absurd.

I remain skeptical those follicles atop his noggin’ are all ones grown naturally.

I am not alone. Write this in your search engine, “Does Bill Self wear a toupee?” and there are a plethora of articles considering the same curiosity. The consensus of conclusions: Yes he does.

I posed the query during a recent lengthy hoops colloquy with Doc. Who is an actual medical M.D., not somebody who just plays one on TV or stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

He agrees with me.

It’s a rug.

 * * * * *

For the opening portions of U of L’s semi against South Carolina, I watched the alternative telecast. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s FF E2: Off the Court Ponderings

Hoopaholic’s Final Fours E1: On the Court

As an admitted, not yet in recovery hoopaholic, I saw every dribble, Friday through Monday. Except, I’ll admit,  for a moment or two at the fridge for just a smidge more guac. And the periodic nature’s calling moments. I took notes. This first edition includes a few random thoughts about what transpired on the hardwood. You’ve already read enough I am so very sure. Coming soon, some snark, the peripheral stuff. 

The most impressive performance: Destanni Henderson.

Setting aside for a moment how she completely shut down U of L sparkplug Hailey Van Lith, Henderson totally dominated South Carolina’s title game spanking of UConn.

Yes, Aliyah Boston was all that. 11 and 16 against the Huskies. An obvious winner of the FF MOP award, combining that with her presence in the semi against the Cards. But Ms. Destanni was all that, plus much more in the final.

Career high and game leading 27 points. She controlled tempo. She set the Gamecock O in motion throughout.

Plus, as she did checking HVL, she throttled the nation’s most talented baller for the entirety. That would be Paige Bueckers.

One thing struck me as a Louisville fan. Henderson is 5-7. The same height as Van Lith. But with significantly more savvy and experience.

Which is to say, and it’s only partially wishful thinking with a lot of expectation, HVL will be kicking it up a notch or four next campaign. Given her legendary drive and work ethic, I wouldn’t be surprised if she passed on spring break at the beach to break down film, work on her game. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Final Fours E1: On the Court

Louisville CardFile: South Carolina

Hear me now, and believe me if you choose.

It was not going to happen.

The University of Louisville Cardinals were not going to conquer season-long top-rated South Carolina. Too may variables had to fall in place. It was not impossible obviously — that’s why they play the game — but chances were miniscule.

There are 351 schools that competed for the opportunity to advance to the Final Four in Minneapolis.

The four best who are clearly the best made it.

That group included — rightfully and justifiably so — U of L. Simply, for a whole passel of reasons, the Cardinals weren’t a match for the Gamecocks.

They would not have won had they had matched their best playing of the year. It would have taken that, then kicking it up a notch, Then another notch. Then get a lucky bounce, or three.

Instead, let’s be honest here, the Cards weren’t quite up to the moment. They played harried and nervous. They calmed for interludes, but never fully found their mojo. Stage fright seemed ever present.

My hope, and I have to assume every Cardinal fan’s hope, is that the squad returns to Louisville with heads held high. Proud of the showcase excellence of their 29-5 season.

Obviously, as one of the school’s four FF contestants, the ’21-’22 Cards are in the conversation as Best Ever.

Beyond that, one thing seems clear, at least to this acolytic observer.

This is perhaps the most galvanizing U of L basketball team, any gender, in the school’s storied hoops history. Ok, maybe, along with the ’80 champs. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: South Carolina

Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Final Four Final Four Weekend

Okay, pretend for a moment you know nothing about basketball, you know nothing about U of L hoops, or rivalries, or even are aware it is the season’s glorious capstone weekend.

You’re walking through a mall, say, Oxmoor, on your way to ask some Apple t-shirted acolyte how to delete a spam message on the new iPhone your daughter gave you for your birthday.

You’re walking by, oh, H & M, and see a couple college aged girls, laughing at something, punching each other in the upper arm as buddies do when they are giving each other congenial shit.

The shorter one, though still kind of tall, has a rounded face, blonde hair braided and a birth mark on her cheek.

The other, a few inches taller, has a face that looks to you, an elder, like she could be 14 or so, but you know that’s not true just by the way she’s acting.

Then you notice a basketball court tatted on the calf of the taller one.

Hmm, that’s odd, you think, wonder if she/they play basketball at some school around here? Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Final Four Final Four Weekend

Louisville CardFile: Michigan

Ebullient, with a palpable joyous relief, Louisville coach Jeff Walz answered the usual pro forma queries in the thrall of victory to the usual pro forma questions.

Happy for the team, went through hardship, never gave up, great group, etc, etc, etc.

Along the way he expressed his gratitude to Tom Jurich for the former AD’s faith when hiring the Maryland assistant coach, an intuitive and adroit move that now sees the former run of the mill program heading to it fourth Final Four, all during JW’s reign.

Wedged between the questioner and the coach was Hailey Van Lith. Displaying but a hint of exhaustion, she kept nodding as if it were still crunch time with minutes to play, the Cards down, and she being advised she needed to make a play.

HVL’s eyes burn fierce.

HVL is a perpetual motion machine. She was still redlining minutes after the buzzer, victory secured.

I’m not sure I can recall a U of L baller of either gender with more motor. Recency bias reminds me of Peyton Siva in the ’13 title game, but I’m sure there are others. Van Lith is certainly in the conversation, arguably at the top of the list. Continue reading Louisville CardFile: Michigan

Hoopaholic’s First Look: Blue Bloody Final Four

Here’s how I surmised it all came down. (At least through the smoke rings of my mind.)

Naismithius was trying to figure out how to finish this thing off.

Keep St. Peter’s ride going? Toss underrated Jim Larrañagga a bone, thereby depriving in-NCAA’s-crosshairs Bill Self a spot? Keep Houston in the hunt?

So, not quite sure how it should all move forward, he texted Dickie V. (Whom he would have called except that Mr. College Basketball can’t talk due to health issues.)

N: “Dick, what I should I do here? Strike it midnight for the Cinderfellas from Joisey? Go with chalk? Help me out.”

DV: “Are you kiddin’ me? Blue Devils. Tar Heels. Greatest rivalry in sports. Never played in the Dance. Coach K’s final ride. In the semis. C’mon, babyeee, Got To Be.”

N: “OK, the others?”

DV: “Yo, paisan, I’m not doin’ all the work. Goombah, figure the rest out yourself.”

 * * * * *.

What we have upcoming, in a year of college hoops for which wackamundo is the only apt description, followed by a tournament as exciting as any in history (at least until an Elite Eight quartet of tilts that underwhelmed), we get the blue bloodiest of Final Fours. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s First Look: Blue Bloody Final Four

Hoopaholic’s Gazette: A Friday Like No Other

The first mention of it I heard came at the final buzzer from a cousin of the species, Ian Eagle (accipitridae announceris). His partner chimed in.

Then Mr. Bunny answered my call with “Happy National Peacocks Day!”

The muckety mucks at NBC, which once upon a time had the rights to the Dance, are wondering either how they can use this disambiguation to their advantage, or whether a law suit should be filed for trademark infringement?

Choose your favorite social media feed. It is festooned with images of afripavo congesnis. Which, to be somewhat more accurate, is but a subspecies of the genus pavo. And there shall be an explanation why it is particularly used here, when I finally wend my way to talking actual college hoops.

Which is coming right now. Almost.

Why this discussion of peacocks, a group of which is called an “ostentation” — which seems sort of appropriate in some way, but I’m not going to riff down that rabbit hole?

Have you been sleeping?

If you are reading here, I suppose not. Continue reading Hoopaholic’s Gazette: A Friday Like No Other