An article published by The Sporting News in June of 2015, talked about Louisville players in the NBA and the lack of staying power despite collegiate success. The article says “Terrence Williams, Samardo Samuels and Chris Smith had their shots. Peyton Siva, the point guard on that championship team, is stuck in the NBA Development League. Francisco Garcia, Pitino’s most successful NBA product, who played 10 years in the league, was waived by the Rockets this season. Of Pitino’s drafted players, three remain in the league: Gorgui Dieng in Minnesota, Russ Smith in Memphis and Earl Clark in Brooklyn. The latter two played a combined 158 minutes last season, while Dieng was a solid role player and occasional starter for the Timberwolves” The article was published prior to the 2015 NBA draft and it wasn’t trying to belittle Louisville but rather it was saying that Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier are the type of players that have staying power in the NBA and they are (as the title of the article states) hoping to rebuild the path to the NBA for Louisville players.
Throughout the article there are plenty of Rick Pitino quotes. We all know Rick isn’t afraid to talk and he loves to make bold statements as well as comparing current or future players to former players. Everyone remembers when he said Mike Marra was the greatest high school shooter he had ever seen.
The quote that garnered the most attention was when he was talking about Harrell and Rozier and next seasons team, “They’re very aggressive people,” Pitino said. “They’ll stick in the NBA, and I think we are just scratching the surface. I’ve got a lot of guys right now, seven or eight guys on the team, who aren’t one-and-dones but will play in the NBA someday.”
Yes, he said seven or eight who will play in the NBA. That quote was heard round the world and received nothing but laughter from Lexington. Here is a quote from one of the UK sites…. “Rick Pitino told a funny joke recently. He said he has seven or eight players on Louisville’s current roster that will play in the NBA someday. I’m being completely serious right now. He really said that. Swear. Yeah, and I’m Denzel Washington.”
Here is the roster that Rick was referring too, Damion Lee, Quenten Snyder, Trey Lewis, Dillon Avare, Matz Stockman, Jaylen Johnson, Jay Henderson, Mangok Mathiang, Raymond Spalding, Anas Mahmoud, Deng Adel, David Levitch, Ryan Mcmahon, Chinanu Onuaku, Donovan Mitchell.
With Onuaku already drafted, Lee and Lewis playing on summer league teams, Pitino could already have three in the NBA. Of those left on that roster, Adel and Mitchell are sure-fire NBA players. I believe Raymond Spalding has a great chance to be in the NBA and if Jaylen Johnson has improved as much as I have heard he has, then he has a great shot to play in the league. I also believe that one of these two, Matz and Anas, have a shot because hey, Skal got drafted and you cant teach someone to be 7’0″.
So while Pitino is prone to hyperbole and often likes to overstate things, he just may be correct on his statement. If he is, you won’t hear anymore laughing from Lexington. Let’s revisit Rick’s quote in two years and I would be willing to bet that Rick will have the last laugh.
As Always, GO CARDS!