Dear Coach Rick Pitino,
It is truly hard to image entering the KFC Yum! Center and not, first hearing you, then seeing you on the sidelines. You have been the figure head of the University of Louisville’s basketball team for much of my childhood.
What has transpired the past few years under your reign, it breaks my heart. Whether you knew about the issues, that’s irrelevant at this point.
It has been hard to be a Louisville Basketball fan… The play on the court has been tremendous. Your play calling, flawless at its best. But, the constant harassment from other fan bases… It was hard.
Late last night, former Louisville guard Chris Jones was shot in the leg following an altercation on a basketball court in his hometown of Memphis, TN. Fortunately, his injury was non-life threatening, and his condition is listed as “non-critical”. We here at Cardinal Sports Zone wish him a speedy recovery.
Today I want to get you guys caught up with a friend of mine. I started covering Chris in High School and because of family members that did AAU before then had watched him play before and met him a few times. Needless to say I knew a ton about him before he even got here. Before he got here though he was the 2013 National Junior College Division I Player of the Year by the NABC, was a two-time first-team NJCAA All-American and was twice named Panhandle Conference Player of the Year. He had a stellar career here at Louisville before being removed from the team in a serious of events leading up to false accusations. Not gonna even bring them up because they weren’t true. You can ask him yourself, from day one I told him that I believed he was innocent and he would be vindicated one day. He was. I try to keep up with everyone I know that plays overseas because I know how it gets over there with no friends and family. So I messaged Chris today to play a little catch-up with him. I hope you enjoy!
The Louisville Cardinals have gotten off to a great start in the 2015-16 season. They have an 8-1 record and are ranked 19th in the AP Poll and 16th in the Coaches Poll. Granted, the competition hasn’t been that great just yet, outside of a close road loss at Michigan State. But Louisville isn’t just winning their games; they are dominating the opponents. While most of the talk has been around the two graduate transfers, Donovan Mitchell highlight dunks, or even the improvements of Matz Stockman, one of the more quiet players on the team is proving to be the most important: Quentin Snider.
When the University of Louisville has its Senior Day ceremony on Saturday before the Virginia game, Wayne Blackshear will be honored for his career at UofL. Junior Montrezl Harrell will also participate in the festivities because of the probability that he goes pro after this season. That isn’t uncommon. Francisco Garcia also did that as a junior.
So two players will be honored. That is slightly less than the number that it could have been, which is 6, and that does not include Harrell. That is just seniors only. If things had gone differently for some players at UofL, this Saturday’s Senior Day would have been much different. Who won’t be there that could have been?
This past Monday, the day after Chris Jones was dismissed from the University of Louisville basketball team, I wrote that their “new season” would begin that night at Georgia Tech. It was a battle, but the Cards prevailed and started this new season 1-0. In just a couple of hours, they will try to improve to 2-0, with two regular season games left before ACC Tournament play. This will be their second game in a row on the road, and I think that is right where they need to be right now.
We’re not going to do our radio show tonight and I didn’t want you guys to think I’m ducking any questions or any responsibilities. To be quite honest with you, I’ve been recruiting every night this week and I have not slept a wink in 48 hours.
I’m totally saddened, to the point of disbelief, over the incident. We’ve built a very strong culture here of discipline and doing the right things, and I’m very proud of all the players that have gone through here and done the right thing, and this comes at a time when we’re all shocked, extremely disheartened, and very much saddened for everybody involved. Our prayers go out to every single person involved in all of this.
From UofL Sports Information Director Kenny Klein:
On Feb. 17 while at a team dinner, Coach Rick Pitino was informed of a text message sent by Chris Jones to another individual. Chris was removed from the dinner table, immediately suspended from the team. After the matter was addressed within the university and Chris surrendered his cell phone, he was permitted to return to the team on Feb. 19 with strict internal disciplinary measures attached, among which included a curfew. It was discovered shortly after noon on Feb. 22 that Chris had violated a curfew and there were other accusations, without knowing specifics. At that time, Chris was immediately dismissed from the team.
Well, the Courier-Journal has reported what got Chris Jones kicked off of Louisville’s basketball team. And it is bad…very bad. We pretty much knew the news about his threatening texts were not what got him dismissed. If it were only that simple. Here are some excerpts from the article, which you can read here.
“I’m as proud of this basketball team as any game I’ve ever coached because I’ve never seen a team have so many open looks from layups to wide open shots off good ball movement and (the shots) not falling. Earlier this year we had the same thing happen and we got down and we didn’t play good defense. But these guys kept their attitude and just focused on one thing: winning the game. You know Georgia Tech is just like us. We have two better players than them, but they’re just like us. They run great stuff, but the ball doesn’t go in. They’re not a good shooting team and we’re not a good shooting team. And that’s the most frustrating thing because they do so many great things offensively and so many great things defensively, and so did we. But when the shot doesn’t go in, you struggle. But they’re a team that played Duke to the wire and had them. Notre Dame in overtime. They’re young right now and they suffer the same things we suffer and that’s ‘you have wide open shots and they don’t go down.'”
This week on 55…..
We talk the dismissal of Chris Jones. We also cover other Louisville men who aren’t sure they want to be Louisville men anymore. Rankings, rankings and rankings. ACC MVP? Also big news in the land of CSZ to talk about and I can’t wait to share it. We also have some combine results and assessments. On ESPN/ESPN2 tonight CardNation takes over and we say good bye to a friend of the site, Elle Raiser. So here we go.
Without further adieu, here are the most ridiculous, outlandish, interesting or just downright obnoxious things I have heard this week. THIS is 55…..
Regardless of what Chris Jones did or didn’t do to get himself dismissed from the Louisville basketball team, the fact is that it happened and now it is over with and time to move on. There will surely be people for the rest of the season that play the “what if” game if the Cards struggle. “Well, if Chris Jones was still there….” and so on and so on. Bottom line: it doesn’t matter now. Chris Jones is not on the team. “What if” scenarios are for discussion and don’t mean much more than that. This team still has talent. Although Jones is very talented himself, it feels like this may be a case of addition by subtraction when it comes to the locker room and team chemistry. Because of that, I feel like a new season of Louisville basketball begins tonight at Georgia Tech.
The following is an excerpt from Jeff Greer’s article in the Courier-Journal. After doing some extensive research, Greer has learned that Chris Jones plans to visit John Lucas to work on anger management. Lucas is a former NBA player and coach who runs a program in Houston to help athletes overcome different issues such as drugs, alcohol, and anger management. Chane Behanan also worked with Lucas for quite some time after he left Louisville last season.
“Well I’m buying beer because we finally got 35 deflections. And we needed it. Montrezl (Harrell) got 11. We needed the deflections tonight because our defense had to win it for us. The reason we got off to such a bad start- I haven’t seen our guys do this- on every drive to the basket, including Montrezl, we were trying to lean into the guy to draw the foul, and it was taking us out of our offensive rhythm by doing that. Then, when you have a start like that, the guys start to panic and they don’t want to shoot, as Chris Jones had a wide open three. But in the second half, I said, `Let’s just play defense every possession. We will win the game. Get our deflections picked up because we had 20 at halftime, and that’s what I want to see.’
Rick Pitino met with the media on Friday afternoon for about 20-25 minutes to talk about the Miami game, along with many other things. He talks about Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear, team meetings, and much more. Here is the transcript.
There are a lot of big games that come into play when you’re in a league like the ACC, but by far this game has the most significance to us at this time. It’s probably the most important game for us that’s come in here this year with more significance than just an outstanding opponent. Because if you look at the standings, if our hope is to finish in the top four and get a double bye, we suddenly go with three other teams, including Miami, record-wise. So we need a win desperately at this point. There’s a lot at stake for both teams and certainly we need a very loud, very enthusiastic crowd, we need great defense from our team, need a lot of emotion tomorrow afternoon.
You know, we played well. I thought Quentin Snider played outstanding. It wasn’t his play, it was Wayne Blackshear not getting in foul trouble. We had to go substitute out of weakness rather than strength. But I thought we moved the ball great in the first half, did a lot of really good things. We missed a lot of shots that would have kept us in the game in the second half, wide-open, we had two in the corner.
But what’s stopping us from being a very good basketball team is the last three years we’ve been one of the most feared defensive teams in the nation, with steals, turnovers, and we’ve just been void of both. I’m going to put out there on Kenny (Klein’s) web site to try and motivate our guys — who’s getting the deflections. Again, we’re falling short of it, so I’m using you to motivate my players.