Sure, it has been a few days since the Red-White scrimmage at the KFC Yum! Center. But in the midst of all of this other talk surrounding the program, and with the football team on a bye, why not talk a little hoops on the court? Plus, I simply haven’t had as much time to sit down and put together something that I feel is worth posting about it. That is the main reason. I don’t have deadlines or quotas to meet on the amount of stories to post. So when I do something, I want it to be solid. Got off topic, here we go…
These are five things that I took away from the scrimmage on Saturday.
1. These freshmen will contribute
We have heard time and time again about how talented this group of freshmen is for Rick Pitino. Why is that big news? Because it usually takes a lot for a freshman to crack the rotation for Rick Pitino-coached teams. Some get minutes here and there, sure. But some guys this year will be impact players.
Deng Adel may end up being a flat out stat stuffer. He will get points, rebounds, assists, deflections, and hustle plays. The kid plays his heart out, and you love to see that. On Saturday, he played for both teams since some guys switched at halftime. He only played five minutes in the second half, but his first half was impressive. He played 18 minutes and had 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. He was 3-7 from the field and 3-3 from the free throw line. He also threw down a nasty one handed dunk and I will say with confidence that he jumped from the ACC logo in the paint.
Ray Spalding totaled 32 minutes on the day. He ended up with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks. I have to tell you, I didn’t realize he put up those kinds of numbers until now. Like his demeanor, he gets his stats quietly. And there is nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t have to be over the top and loud. He just plays his game and lets things come to him. His versatility could be big for the Cards this season.
Donovan Mitchell finished the day with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals. Not too bad! We already know about his athletic ability from the many vines or Instagram videos this summer of late night sessions in the Yum! Center having his own personal dunk contest. In a somewhat crowded back court with Quentin Snider, Trey Lewis, and Damion Lee when he plays a guard spot, Mitchell will need to be a spark off the bench when he plays. The seniors, Lewis and Lee, figure to play a lot of minutes. Mitchell won’t put up those kinds of numbers his freshman season, but he will play. And he will contribute. He is too athletic not too.
So I don’t leave out Ryan McMahon, I will say that the guy is clutch. He hit two late threes to give his team a chance to even win the second half. No hesitation, no fear. Just rise up and pull, and he drilled them. He should have got a third look to win it, but his team turned the ball over. Pitino has said that a redshirt is likely, and that is good because he needs to add muscle, and a lot of it. But when he doe get onto the court, he can pull, and hit, from just about anywhere.
2. Onuaku fouls…a lot
8 fouls in 16 minutes. That was the first half for Chinanu Onuaku. They won’t allow that in College Basketball this season. There are some NBA Draft boards that have Nanu as a first round draft pick after this season. If these fouls keep up, he will be drafted solely on potential because nobody will ever get to see him play in a game.
Maybe he felt like he had to do too much without Mangok Mathiang also being there down low. Or maybe he was just caught out of position a lot. It was technically only the second day of practice for these guys. But either way, the fouls have to improve for this team to accomplish what it wants to this season. If Nanu can’t stay on the court, then other guys that haven’t played as much will be forced to play heavy minutes. Which may not be terrible, because my next point is…
3. Anas has to play
I don’t remember what Anas Mahmoud weighed when he got to campus. I want to say it was 187 or something like that. He is listed now at 210, but I am sure he needs to be around 220-225 this season for Coach Pitino to be happy. I liked what I saw from him last season in brief glimpses, and I loved what I saw on Saturday. The big man was making plays on both ends of the floor, and just seems so smooth and confident that you have to love him.
He ended up with 4 blocks on the day, and it seems like they were all volleyball spikes into the ground. That is the first thing that stuck out to me, but he also added 21 points and 12 rebounds. He made post moves, hit a 12 foot baseline jumper, made a sky-hook that may have reminded me of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Just saying.
If Anas can get in there and not get pushed around, he will be a heck of a player. It just doesn’t look like anything phases him. He seems like a happy big guy out there making plays. So like I said, he is very easy to cheer for. He isn’t just a long body that can only block shots and maybe grab a rebound. Mahmoud knows how to play basketball and has a nice looking touch on his shot. I certainly hope we see more of him this season.
4. Matz probably won’t contribute this year
On the flip side of that, there is Matz. I can’t be a complete homer and act like everyone is the best player ever. And this isn’t totally a bad thing. Matz may end up being a solid player down the road for Louisville. I just don’t think it will be this season. Granted, it was one scrimmage. But he still seems very unsure of what he wants to do when he gets the ball. There were a few times where he got the ball in the post and it seemed like he froze. No quick move, no pass back out to the perimeter. Not much of anything. And when he does get close to the basket, there are a lot of finger rolls or soft touch shots, rather than trying to dunk it with authority because he is a 7 footer so that just kind of seems like the easier way to go.
I say this, and now Matz will come out and have 20 points and 15 rebounds in the next scrimmage. And that would be fine. I am not wanting him to not play this season. Just pointing out what I see. And with Onuaku, Mathiang, Mahmoud, and Jaylen Johnson all in the front court, I don’t see Matz making an impact in games this season.
5. This team is easy to root for
Another thing we have heard over and over again is how likable this team is. In true Pitino hyperbole, he has said many times things along the lines of this being the “greatest group of guys” or a team that will be “one of the all time fan-favorites in UofL history” and stuff like that. A lot of hype when it comes to the character of these guys. And you know what? I am buying it. All of it.
Our two senior transfers, Trey Lewis and Damion Lee, could come here and act like they have been there before and that they are too good to help our young guys. The thing is, they haven’t been there before, and “there” is the NCAA Tournament. They are here because this is their last chance to make a run and make it to the tournament. From the looks of things, they are great teammates.
Lewis was constantly encouraging his teammates. I was lucky enough to get a floor seat on Saturday from my cousin Ryan Harrington, so you could hear the encouragement. David Levitch was playing solid defense and got run over and called for a blocking foul. Lewis ran to him and helped him up yelling “Good defense D Lev! Good defense D Lev!”
Late in the game, Lee fouled Lewis hard and both went to the ground. This was literally 5 feet from me, maybe. Lee bent down and gave a look like “oops, my bad man.” As he helped Lewis up, they hugged it out, which drew applause from the crowd, and I heard Lewis say to him “Man we are old, can’t be doin’ all of that!” The few people within hearing distance of that got a good laugh out of it.
This just seems like a group of really good guys that will be fun to watch. Needless to say, this fanbase could use that right now.
The next scrimmage will take place on Saturday, October 17 at 4:00. It is the same day that the football team takes on Florida State at noon. So make it a full day of UofL sports!