Louisville Cardinals Meet the Press, Part I

dunikcardThis is the kind of story I love.

Yesterday was the first public scrimmage by U of L’s hoopsters. It was preceded by Media Day, an opportunity to question the Cards, vets and rookies.

There are lots of newcomers with the ’14-’15 Cardinals. They’re a diverse contingent from around the globe, including players from such exotic locales as Melbourne, Ypsilanti, Oslo, Cairo, Goshen and Georgetown, KY.

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Matz (Pronounce it Motts) Stockman is the tallest. He comes to Louisville from Norway, by way of the Canaria Basketball Academy in Spain’s Canary Islands.

He’s the kid with the tale to tell.

Of course, most of the questions we asked him concern the state of sports in Norway. He advises he, unlike his countrymen, could care less about the Winter Olympics. He advises that cycling and skiing are the most popular sports in his home.1

Anyway, here’s the extent of the kid’s exposure to college hoops. The first game he ever saw: Louisville vs. Syracuse. March 16, 2013. You know the one, the Cards incredible second half comeback in the Big East Finals for an eventual 17 point victory, on their way to the national championship.

Which means this seven footer’s exposure to the game he’s now going to play is a robust, uh, twenty months old.

He’s the tallest of the new Cardinals. He’s also got the most to develop.

He’s the kind of stiff pivotman that Pitino’s teams have battered for years. Frankly, it’s kind of odd to see him wearing the red & black. He’s a plodder. Though he has good hands. It’s going to be fascinating to see how, and if, he develops.

Nice kid though. Easy smile. Just pleased as punch to be here.

The best moment of his athletic career was “the day I signed with Louisville.”‘

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Remember this name: Anas Mahmoud.

For me, he was far and away the most impressive of the new Cardinals.

Yes he’s underweight for a seven footer. Spindly would be an apt description.

But he runs the court. He’s most coordinated. More important, his game is instinctual. He knows where he needs to be, where the ball needs to go, and he gets it there without it lingering in his paws. He’s got serious hops. Great timing around the hoop. And plays with an eery presence. He’s impassive, like those McCray brothers.

Though I might have to chew these words at a later date, I’ll take a stand.

He reminds me of young Pervis Ellison.

Which is to say, Mahmoud’s upside is H.U.G.E.

He also has a worldly air about him. He traveled in Europe a lot on Egypt’s youth squad. Thus, he says, “there’s been no culture shock here in Louisville.”

He loves the family atmosphere of the team and the city.

He’s just learning how good he might be, even speaking of his desire to play in “the league.”

“I didn’t realize my talent until I moved to Orlando last year. I realized I had skills.”

He says the player whose game he’d most like to emulate is Kevin Love.2

Loved, loved, loved what I saw on the court Sunday afternoon from Anas Mahmoud.

So too did Coach Rick Pitino. Mahmoud was the first Card he talked about at the post game press conference.

“I was a little taken aback, and a little surprised by the big Egyptian. He’s getting a little bit better every day, but he’ never played as well as he did tonight.

“So I was really glad to see that.”

Since the coach didn’t mention another player before the Q & A portion of his presser, I assume he may be more excited about Mahmoud than he even let on.

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I’m also intrigued by Jaylen Johnson.

He arrived late at U of L, because his school was tardy in getting his transcript to the authorities for NCAA approval. And he’s been dealing with tendonitis in one leg for several seasons now, but only at U of L have they started to treat it.

So, he’s out of shape. And off his game. But plays with a chip on his shoulder, because he thought he was underrated in high school. He’s got good size and a body that’s going to develop.

Laughing, he admits he gets schooled in practice every day by Montrezl Harrel. But makes sure listeners understand he knows it’s what happens.

“It’s a big brother, little brother thing.”

He only played 14 minutes Sunday. Eventually, he’ll be a major contributor for U of L.

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More on Media Day and the scrimmage coming soon, late today.

— Seedy K

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