U of L Hoops Media Day Takeaways

The first player I approached when the squad became available after Kenny Payne’s revelatory time at the mic (more on that later) and the team photo was Curtis Williams.

“Just wanted to tell you how much I love having a guy from Motown on the team. I was born in Detroit too.”


“Dude, that’s why I’m wearing my Lions ballcap.”

Nonplussed, Williams nods.

(Note: Probably, surely, more often than not Williams’ name in this space shall be hereinafter monikorized as CWill.)

After chatting about Caleb Cunningham and the Pistons one point loss to Miami in their opener, I asked Williams about the point guard thing.

If you readers will recall, in a recent post I mentioned how KP was forcing the wing to handle the ball more and learn to distribute it.

“Yeah, I think I’m getting better at it.”

“Are you embracing it?”

To which I observed in his body language and tempered response a begrudging if less than enthusiastic acceptance of the situation.

We’ll see.

What I know is this about, for obvious reasons my favorite new Cardinal: He can ball. He can really shoot. He has a handle. And that Payne is working to help the rookie understand there can be more to his game than he needed in high school.

 * * * * *

Danilo Jovanovich has a sweet welcoming smile. He is seriously engaging.

(Note. Pronunciation guide. DON-uh-low YO-vahn-oh-vich. Probably, surely, more often than not Jovanovich’s name in this space shall hereinafter be monikorized as DLo. Or, maybe D-Lo.)

He spent most of last season, his freshman year at Miami, injured.

I inquired about something I’d heard, that Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes don’t really practice much after the season starts?

Jovanovich smiled, then chuckled, “Yeah, it’s true.”

I asked about a typical Wednesday night/ Saturday afternoon turnaround.

He mentioned how there was always a day off after a game. Then a day of film study. Then maybe a walk through day, where new or tweaked plays would be installed. Then a shoot around the morning of the tilt.

Jovanovich didn’t play in the first exhi because of concussion protocol. He’s now good to go.

 * * * * *

Koron Davis seemed, at least in our short engagement, to be a thoughtful kid. (They are all kids to me.)

KD — get used to it, etc, etc — is the mystery guy on the team. A Hoosier, he played prep ball in Gary, went to a community college in Paris, Texas, then when all his teammates transferred out, he moved on to a CC in LA. Where Kenny Payne was the first coach to reach out to him.

(I almost asked him if he knew of the ’84 Wim Wenders existential downer of a flick “Paris, Texas” starring Louisvillian Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski. But knew better and refrained.)

Asked about how he’d describe his game, he spent a few moments to find the right words. After I mentioned, he appeared to play with a lot of confidence, he agreed.

“That’s my best trait.”

After watching the Cards’ first two public performances, I believe Davis could be a sleeper contributor we’re not really thinking about.

 * * * * *

Dennis Evans wears goggles because Kareem wore goggles.

Which is just too damn cool.

I’m so looking forward to that moment in the near future when the Yum! starts filling up again, and 10 year old boys and girls (and some adult types) show up with goggles on.

 * * * * *

My main observation of Kenny Payne’s time at the mic is he, despite last season and all the external disgruntlement, has an unwavering confidence and belief in what he and his staff are doing here.

He expressed justifiable pride in the squad he put together after last year’s 4 win disaster.

“I consider this year the 1st Step.”

He appears willing to explain what’s happening in more detail.

He talked about what he calls the “retreat drill,” where the team works on keeping man and ball in front of them on defense. During his explanation, he mentioned Ty-Laur (Johnson) by name. How he can’t keep trying to steal the ball, as he was able to do in high school. About footwork, etc.

Asked about Williams, he pointedly shared, “I want him to be a willing learner.”

When asked about the underwhelming performances in the two public games of Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, KP’s dissatisfaction was apparent if not actually stated in his response.

“I need him to be an elite rebounder, to move his feet, to become an excellent screener, to make his FTs, and finish under the hoop.”

Asked about holdover JJ Traynor, KP confirmed how the legacy baller is more sure of himself. He said Traynor dominated the Cards’ last practice. “I need for him to understand he can do that every day.”

Hungriest players on the team?

“Skyy Clark, Tre White, Mike James, Dennis Evans.”

Questioned what he wants of himself this season, “I hope I’m more positive. On the sideline. With my body language.

“I want to be a coach who can talk trash to the other team with my players.”

— c d kaplan


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