Cardinal Basketball

Three Future Cards Shine At The Annual Kentucky Derby Festival Clasic

Phoot | @SteveJones_CJ

Phoot | @SteveJones_CJ

On Friday evening at the historic Freedom Hall, Louisville fans got a chance to get an early look at three future Cardinals at the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic. Needless to say, they didn’t disappoint.

Quentin Snider, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku were a part of the White Team who defeated the Green Team 128 to 104.

Snider earned MVP honors for the White Team. The Louisville native finished with eight points, nine assists and four rebounds with one steal and zero turnovers.

Johnson finished 14 points and 10 rebounds. The hybrid forward showcased his athletic ability and upside. Snider and Johnson played very well together in the open floor.

Onuaku finished with seven points and ten rebounds. He was just 3-of-11 from the floor, but collected four steals and two blocks. As I’ve mentioned throughout the week, it’s tough for big guys like Onuaku to shine in All Star type settings.

We’ll have much more from the Derby Classic posted throughout the weekend.

KDF Box Score

The Country’s Top Up & Coming Recruiter Is Reportedly In The Mix To Join Pitino’s Staff

MaligiEarlier this week we learned that Indiana assistant coach Kenny Johnson was in the mix for the vacant spot on Rick Pitino’s staff. It doesn’t appear that Johnson has been offered the job at this point, but Scout.com reports that he’ll surely accept if offered.

In the past 24 hours another name has surfaced as a potential replacement for Kevin Keatts. Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports reports that SMU assistant Ulric Maligi is in the mix to join Rick Pitino’s coaching staff.

There are two lower level programs from the state of Texas that have surprisingly done very well in recruiting over the past few years and Ulcric Maligi has played a huge in that.

Prior to joining Larry Brown’s SMU staff in 2012, Maligi helped Houston land two ESPN top-100 signees in Danrad “Chicken” Knowles and 2012-13 C-USA Freshman of the Year Danuel House. Since joining the SMU staff, Maligi has helped Larry Brown bring in two McDonalds All Americans. Keith Frazier in 2013 and Emmanuel Mudiay in 2014, who is regarded as one of the top five players in the class.

From 2003 to 2006, Maligi served as head coach of the Dallas Mustangs AAU program. During his four years with the program saw more than 50 of its players sign scholarships with NCAA Division one programs.

Maligi coached the likes of  Byron Eaton (Oklahoma State), Wesley Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers (Syracuse), Anthony Randolph of the Denver Nuggets (LSU), and Donald Sloan of the Indiana Pacers (Texas A&M). He also coached Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers and Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Texas native then spent three seasons (2002-05) as a student assistant coach/video coordinator at Howard University before jumping on to the AAU scene. Maligi spent three seasons (2007-10) as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin before being hired at Houston.

Coach Pitino has stated multiple times that he is looking for more of a teacher than a recruited when it comes to replacing Kevin Keatts. That may have changed as Ulric is one of the top up and coming recruiters in college basketball.

Five Takeaways: Derby Festival Classic Night of the Future Stars

Derby Classic 016

I’ve been attending the annual “Night of the Future Stars” event for the past 17 years. Fortunately, I’m now able to cover an event that I used to cherish as a child. Over the years, I’ve grown to enjoy this more than the actual All Star game itself.

The 3-PT shootout and slam dunk competition are always fun to watch and I believe you can really assess a lot about each players individual skill set in the 2-on-2 tournament. That said, it’s still an All Star event that isn’t super competitive and is more about having fun.

Here are some takeaways from last night’s event.

Snider is the real deal: Louisville signee Quentin Snider’s accolades speak for them self.  The Ballard Bruins is a three time All State performer and was recently named Kentucky Mr. Basketball. Cardinal fans have been spoiled being able to watch him in their own town for the past few years. Watching Snider last night going up against some of the top recruits in the country reminded me that he always shines against  better competition. The 6-foot-2 floor general was great for Ballard, but when you see him playing against top level talent, you’re really able to see why he’s regarded so highly on the national  level. He needs to add strength and I’m sure he and all of the other freshman have a lot to learn about Rick Pitino’s defensive philosophy. That said, Snider is a guy who can contribute next year. He’s not insanely fast or athletic, but he is a very savvy guard who plays within himself.

Gators got a good one: In the practice on Wednesday and at last night’s event, Florida signee Brandone Francis really stood out. He had a breakout spring last year and was being recruited by Louisville pretty heavily at one time. However, when Jaquan Lyle committed to the Cards, Francis wound up choosing Florida. I’m happy with what Pitino is bringing in this year, but Francis is one guy that I would have loved to see in a Cardinal uniform. At 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, Francis has NBA size at the shooting guard position and is a natural scorer.

Chinanu Onuaku & Jaylen Johnson are very raw: It’s a good thing that Montrezl Harrell is returning for multiple reasons. One of those reasons is that the incoming freshman won’t be depended on quite as much. Jaylen Johnson is a very intriguing prospect with his size. He played the four in high school and that may be where he ends up at Louisville, but he’s got a very nice skill set for a big man. He can handle the ball like a small forward and has a decent shooting touch when he’s set. That said, he would benefit greatly from a redshirt season. I realize that never happens with Pitino, but Johnson has a ton of potential I just think he’s not physically ready. Onuaku is as big as any player in the event. I’ll be honest in saying that it’s really hard to get a feel for his game in an All Star setting. He’s an elite rebounder and shot blocker, but that hasn’t shown just yet. I expect we’ll see some of that in tonight’s All Star game. Offense is an area that he is very raw at, but he can definitely help the Cards on the glass next season.

Jaquan Lyle is still very good: It simply wasn’t mean to be for Jaquan Lyle and Louisville. That said, he’s still a super talented player that I believe will have a lot of success at the college level. I’m not sure how his game would translate to the NBA, but he’s a very big guard (6-foot-5, 210-pounds) that can shoot the lights out, has elite ball handling ability and is as good of a passer that you’ll see in the 2014 class. I’m not sure he would be a fan of Rick Pitino’s conditioning philosophy, but I think he’s going to be a star at Oregon.

UNLV signees are solid: Maybe it’s me, but I don’t remember there being much UNLV representation at this event in years past. However, this year there are two Runnin’ Rebel signees and they’ve both stood out to me over the past two days. Goodluck Okonoboh was a onetime Louisville target and at 6-foot-9, 210-pounds, he may be the best shot blocker in the class. Not an elite scorer, but he is very athletic. Dwayne Morgan is a 6-foot-7 hybrid forward that has elite athleticism. I’m not sure what UNLV has coming back from last year’s team, but both of these guys should play right away.

Adidas Deal Completes Louisville’s Transformation into National Powerhouse

ACC PHOTO

 

“But you ain’t bona fide!” That’s the excuse Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney) is given as to why he can’t reunite with his wife in O Brother Where Art Thou? The Big 12 likely said something to that effect when Louisville tried to rejoin its Big East buddy West Virginia in its new conference.

It would turn out to be a grave mistake, because since that moment Louisville has only grown in credibility. Before even entering the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville is every bit the asset West Virginia is and much more. And with Thursday’s announcement making Louisville a prized jewel in Adidas’ crown, the Cardinals are very much “bona fide.”

Louisville’s five –year, $39 million extension with Adidas positions the Cardinals among the top five nationally in apparel contracts. Its $7.8 million per year figure sits it just behind Adidas largest deal Michigan’s $8.2 million per year deal. As well as a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame’s $90 million mega deal with Under Armour unveiled in January.

For years, Louisville forum trolls have written extensively about Louisville moving on from Adidas and seeking a deal with Nike. “The recruits all want Nike!” “Our uniforms will look cooler!” “Adidas doesn’t care about us!” Three rallying cries for fans desperate for the swoosh.

When asked about the critics during Thursday’s press conference UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich replied: “What critics? This is a great deal. I haven’t heard any critics.”

Jurich had heard no critics because they have all been silenced. This deal is fantastic for Louisville in every single way. A true milestone for the athletic program.

The key that Jurich touched on throughout the presser was how Adidas was to truly become a “partner.” Comparisons have been made to the special service Oregon receives from Nike (which was founded by former Duck Phil Knight) and perhaps Louisville becoming a similar muse.

“Our goal is making sure the other 49 states know the Louisville brand,” said Adidas representative Chris McGuire. He made clear on the international company’s goal of giving Louisville a national identity.

Adidas’ contribution to the program isn’t only around cash and merchandise. The company will provide equipment room expansion, increased digital technology, and a formalized internship program for at least 20 Louisville students. This deal is about cultivating a strong relationship.

The agreement marks yet another sign of Tom Jurich’s immense loyalty. The Cardinals have maintained a 16 year relationship with Adidas, nearly as long as Jurich’s reign atop Louisville athletics. As more and more pressure came for Louisville to move on, Jurich gave Adidas the sole first opportunity to negotiate a new deal. And the loyalty paid off.

After losing two of their brightest programs, Tennessee and Notre Dame, in two months, Adidas couldn’t afford to lose Louisville. Furthermore it was an opportunity to secure a potential ACC powerhouse in the Cardinals, who will be only the second Adidas team in its new league.

While much of Adidas’ plans for Louisville remain under wraps, it was revealed Thursday afternoon that the Cardinal football team would have five different football uniforms for 2015. While we can only imagine what they will look like, try coming up with five colors the Cardinals could wear. Red, black, white, silver, and what else? Pink? Yellow? Blue? The announcement showed that Adidas is already committed to creating excitement around the Louisville brand.

As the Cardinals enter their new ACC home, it will be hard to deny their excellence. They have performed well in a variety of sports, with 11 different teams ranked in their national top 25. State of the art facilities housing nearly every sport.  A rabid fan base willing to travel. And now an incredible apparel deal with Adidas that will place Louisville at the forefront.

This deal finds Louisville ahead of countless iconic athletics programs. Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, and Kentucky are among the school Louisville now leads in apparel dollars. Not to mention that the Cardinals have the most lucrative deal in the ACC months before they actually enter it.

If you had described today’s state of Louisville athletics to a fan from ten years ago, they no doubt would have scoffed at you. Why would anyone believe that the Cardinals who were stuck in the mediocre Conference USA could even be in the same sentence as Notre Dame and Michigan.  But here we are less 90 days from Louisville joining its new conference, and the Cardinals have all the components of a national powerhouse.

It has happened. The Cardinals are “bona fide.”

In State Star Offered Preferred Walk-On Spot From Rick Pitino

Nearly every season there is at least one player who is offered a preferred walk-on spot with the Louisville basketball program. Some have went on to have successful careers like Tim Henderson and others like Stuart Miller eventually transfer to play at a smaller level.

I’d be willing to bet there are a couple of players that Rick Pitino has in mind to be walk-on’s next season, but the one that we know of for sure is Georgetown, KY., native Trent Gilbert. Mike Fields of the Lexington Herald Leader was the first to report the news on Wednesday afternoon.

The Scott County High School star was one of more prolific scorers in the state of Kentucky over the past few years. A lot of times you’ll see preferred walk-ons be added to keep the team GPA up and simply provide an added body in practice.

Gilbert isn’t the next Russ Smith, but anyone who has watched him in action knows that the kid can flat out play. The fact that he doesn’t have more scholarship offers is puzzling to me.

The 6-foot-2 combo-guard was a finalist for the 2014 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Award and led the Scott County Cardinals to finals of the KHSAA Sweet 16 Tournament. He averaged 25.9 points per game and made 40 percent of his three-point attempts this season. He’s also a 91 percent shooter from the free-throw line.

It may be tough to lure Gilbert to Louisville as he’s finally starting to pick up some scholarship offers. Winthrop and Marshall are the latest Division 1 schools to offer. He also has offers Tennessee Tech, Kentucky Wesleyan and Georgetown College. Oklahoma State, Xavier, Mercer and Troy have yet to offer, but are expressing interest.

Many believe that Travis Ford at Oklahoma State will offer if he can spare a scholarship.

Report: Indiana Assistant Kenny Johnson In The Mix To Join Louisville Staff

Photo | Associated Press

Photo | Associated Press

Since it was announced that Rick Pitino’s top assistant Kevin Keatts would be leaving the program to become the head coach at UNC Wilmington, former assistant Ralph Willard is the only name being mentioned as a potential replacement.

That changed earlier this week. Indiana assistant coach Kenny Johnson has become a hot commodity in recent weeks and there are reports that Louisville may have some interest. Johnson just finished his second season with Tom Crean and has played a huge role in the Hoosiers recruiting. He’s a former AAU coach that has strong ties to the national recruiting scene.

Johnson helped IU land guys like Noah Vonleh, Robert Johnson, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson.

Justin Albers of Scout.com reports that Louisville is the favorite to land Johnson if he is in fact offered the job. However, Louisville isn’t the only program showing interest. Maryland, Johnson’s alma mater is also courting the DC native.

As to why Johnson would want to leave Indiana, I’m not sure. Things appear to be falling apart for Tom Crean in Bloomington, but the one area that is still doing well is recruiting. Losing Johnson would be a big blow for the Hoosier program. The Indianapolis Star has reported that IU will do everything they can to try and keep Johnson, but it doesn’t appear that he sincerely wants to stay.

I still firmly believe that Ralph Willard is someone that Coach Pitino wants on staff if he’s able to convince him to return to coaching. He’s been working as a scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder since leaving the Louisville sidelines.

It’ll be interesting to see how things play out.

Louisville’s $40 Million Adidas Mega Deal Placed Near Top of Apparel Deals

Photo | Adidas

Photo | Adidas

The Louisville Cardinals have signed a five-year and $40 million deal to extend their 16 year relationship with adidas. According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy the deal places them among the top five for all college apparel deals.

The deal ranks them just below Notre Dame’s ($9 million per year from Under Armor) and Michigan’s ($8.5 Million per year from adidas) massive agreements. Although the Wolverines are set to renegotiate their adidas deal in the near future.

The Cardinals’ tremendous recent success likely had a lot to do with the large deal. With high profile success in several sports, the Cardinals have received national attention. Now Louisville will enter the Atlantic Coast Conference, with an even larger national platform.

There has been plenty of speculation over the past few years on whether Louisville should stay with adidas or move to Nike. Due to some reports that Nike leads to more fruitful basketball recruiting, a vocal group of fans were convinced Tom Jurich needed to pull the trigger. Now it appears that Louisville’s loyalty has been rewarded.

With Tennessee and Notre Dame leaving the adidas stable, Louisville will be a more highly regarded client. On top of the big money, the Cardinals will receive much more attention from adidas. It is a much better deal than playing second fiddle in your own state in a possible deal with Nike.

More details on the deal will be revealed during a press conference at 2:30 PM at the Yum! Center on Louisville’s campus.

Rick Pitino’s Front Court Should Be Vastly Improved Next Season

Pete Cautilli | The Cardinal Connect

Pete Cautilli | The Cardinal Connect

Louisville’s incoming recruiting class features more giants than some beanstalk themed children’s stories.  A minute’s battle could be just beyond the horizon for the Louisville Cardinals.  Mangok Mathiang and Montrezl Harrell return as your incumbent big men.  The back-up low post positions are gaping holes, and we only have these freshmen to fill them.  One man does not simply replace Stephen Van Treese, so Rick Pitino has wisely brought in a host of players to battle it out.  There might be a mess in the frontcourt next season, and The Janitor won’t be able to help us if that happens.

The 2014 recruiting class includes Matz Stockman (7’2) Anas Osama Mahmoud (7’1) Chinanu Onuaku (6’10) Jaylen Johnson (6’9) Shaquaan Aaron (6’8).  All five of these players would be considered “front court” players, and most of them can play two positions.  Stockman is a true center at 7’2, 238.  Matz will most likely have fight club with Chinanu Onuaku in practice all summer.  The winner of these skirmishes will emerge as the Cardinals back-up center, the loser will most likely be relegated to garbage time.

Osama Mahmoud also towers above the people at 7’1, but has a much slighter frame than Stockman at 210 lbs.  Mahmoud has a unique skill set for a big man, and can play further from the rim than Stockman.  Mahmoud can hit mid range jumpers, find the cutting man, and drive to the basket from the triple threat.  Mahmoud would most likely be best fitted as a 4-man, given his ability to put the ball on the ground and the pass on the money.

Jaylen Johnson is also a hybrid forward who many consider to be UofL’s future starting power forward.  Johnson has impressed with his ball handling and shooting touch so far in Derby Classic practices.  The size of Stockman and the skills of Mahmoud allow for Johnson to slide into the three spot as well as allow Aaron to play his natural shooting guard position.

All scenarios will be explored by master commander Pitino all summer, and his keen basketball intellect will uncover the correct answer.  Returning forward Akoy Agau has an entire season on this year’s crop, and he will also be attending practices with them.  Agau will either improve his game or make the incoming players better.  Akoy could turn the switch when given the chance next season in the same way that Mangok Mathiang came on in the later part of the season.  Someone may have to catch a redshirt if Akoy shows improvement, and it would most likely be one of the 7 footers.

Louisville has been thirsty for multiple sources of size for years now.  It would not be catastrophic to be able to shelf some of this size and save it for later.   We all know that a great novella is about to be played out in terms of minutes next season.  Half-truths will be told, battles will be waged, but ultimately the best interest of the team will come first.  Louisville fans have much to look forward to this summer.  The incoming size and skill coupled with the returning talent could mean big things for one of America’s premier basketball programs.

Significant Announcement Coming From UofL Athletics At 2 PM

Robert Deutsch – USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch – USA TODAY Sports

The University of Louisville announced this morning that there will be a press conference on Thursday afternoon at 2 PM to make a big announcement.

Athletic director Tom Jurich, volleyball coach Anne Kordes, soccer coach Ken Lolla and football coach Bobby Petrino will be in attendance at the announcement.

The press release from UofL states that this is a “significant announcement which affects all of its 23 sports programs.” The announcement will take place live at the on campus Yum! Center.

The release from UofL didn’t hint at what this announcement could be, however I believe it is an announcement regarding Louisville’s relationship with adidas. A lot of fans were hopeful that it would be an announcement that UofL would be signing with Nike, but I’m being told it’s the exact opposite and that the university will resign long term with adidas.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Video: Quentin Snider, Chinanu Onuaku & Jaylen Johnson At Derby Classic Media Practice

Derby Classic Snider Onuaku Johnson

Three of the six members in Rick Pitino’s 2014 class were in Louisville on Wednesday afternoon for the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic media gathering and practice. Point guard Quentin Snider, Forward Jaylen Johnson and Center Chinanu Onuaku are the three signees participating in the annual event.