Cardinal Basketball

Rick Pitino Provides Late Summer Update

Photo: Pete Cautilli

Photo: Pete Cautilli

Prior to the UofL Opening Weekend Kickoff Party at Captains Quarters on Wednesday evening, Rick Pitino spoke to the media to provide a late summer update. Here is a recap.

Jaylen Johnson being cleared.

It’s something we anticipated, but we’re glad,” Pitino said. He later went added that he was surprise that Johnson wasn’t as far behind as initially expected.

The 2014-15 schedule.

I don’t know if excitement is the word. It is an extremely tough schedule for a team that lost a lot. We’re going to play a Minnesota team that has every player back that won an NIT Championship. We’ll play Ohio State, we’ll play at Western of course Kentucky, Indiana. So, it’s quite challenging and that’s not to mention the ACC.

We’ve been in that situation before when we entered the Big East, but this is a little different because we don’t know the waters we’re about to swim in and we’re about to learn.

Chris Jones injury.

He’s fine. It’s those little injuries that you have this time of year that you never really concern yourself with. It’s the DeVante Parker type injury that really worries you because that is during the season where you’re going to miss games.

On the starting five.

One of the strengths of our basketball team is that we have a very strong starting five. One of the question marks is how strong can our bench be. In the last four years we’ve lost four dynamic players in Luke, Russ, Peyton and Gorgui. Guys who played the secondary roles like Montrezl, Chris and Terry are all stepping into primary roles. So we need to know who is stepping into their roles.

Terry Rozier’s big summer.

I think with our guys you generally see tremendous improvement from freshman to sophomore year. I certainly see that with Chris Jones who is not a sophomore, but he’s in his second year. It’s the same thing with Terry. Wayne is playing terrific. Like I said, our starting five is a very talented group. Mangok has gotten a lot better. What you don’t want to do with a bench is have a big drop off. I’m not saying there is yet, because I haven’t seen us practice, just individual instruction.

When asked about possibly redshirting 7-foot newcomers Matz Stocman and Anas Mahmoud, Pitino seemed a little hesitant. He did note that both are candidates for a redshirt but says you have to be careful when redshirting. He also mentioned a scholarship numbers crunch.

The 2014-15 Louisville Basketball Schedule Has Been Released

Photo: Pete Cautilli

Photo: Pete Cautilli

On Wednesday afternoon the Atlantic Coast Conference released their entire 2014-15 basketball schedule for all league teams. Shortly after, the University of Louisville released the finalized scheduled for the upcoming season. With the  ACC being as loaded as it is along with having to face Ohio State, Kentucky, Minnesota and Indiana, this will be one of the toughest schedules in recent years for the program.

“This will be one of the biggest challenges we’ve had since I’ve been at Louisville,” Rick Pitino said in an official release from the program. “It’s not only a fantastic league schedule, where three of our four repeat opponents are ranked high in the polls, but our non-conference schedule which includes three Big Ten schools will present a significant task. We believe our veterans will be prepared for it and certainly we look forward to the challenge. This should be one of the most exciting schedules in U of L history with our first season in the ACC.”

2014-15 schedule

The 2014-15 Louisville Basketball Roster Has Been Released

Photo: Pete Cautilli

Photo: Pete Cautilli

With incoming freshman Jaylen Johnson now officially with the program, Rick Pitino’s roster for the 2014-15 season is complete. The program released their updated roster on Monday evening with all of the of the incoming freshman listed.

All returning players will keep their number from last season, other than Wayne Blackshear. He’ll now wear No. 25, which he wore in high school.

2014-15 Louisville Basketball Roster

2014-15 roster

Montrezl Harrell Named A Preseason Blue Ribbon First Team All American

Blue RibbonFor the third consecutive year, the Louisville Basketball program has had a player named to the Preseason Blue Ribbon All American Team.

In 2012-13 it was Peyton Siva, in 2013-14 it was Russ Smith and this year it is Montrezl Harrell.

Blue Ribbon Yearbook has been publishing preseason college football and basketball previews for more than 20 years and has a solid reputation among the national media.

Harrell is one of five players to be named to the their preseason first team. Fred Van Vleet (Wichita State), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) and Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin) were the other four.

Despite being projected to be a first round pick, Harrell decided to return to school for his junior season. As a sophomore, he averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

The Tarboro, NC., native was named the most improved player in the American Athletic Conference and was also named to the league’s first team. Harrell is projected to be taken in the lottery of the 2015 NBA Draft.

Update: Jaylen Johnson Enrolled But Still Waiting To Be Officially Cleared By NCAA

Photo: Ann Arbor News

Photo: Ann Arbor News

It’s officially football season around these parts, but the Louisville basketball program recently received some good news that is definitely worth mentioning.

Freshman forward Jaylen Johnson is now officially enrolled as a student at the University of Louisville. Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal reports that Johnson is now listed as a student via the school’s registrar office.

The 6-foot-8, Ypsilanti, MI., native’s academic status was never a true concern when it comes to grades and test scores. The the holdup with Johnson was basically due to a delay in getting proper paperwork to the NCAA clearinghouse.

Prior to his senior season, Johnson’s high school consolidated school districts, which resulted in the necessary documentation not getting to the NCAA as quickly as it should have. Rick Pitino maintained confidence throughout the entire summer and fortunately Johnson was cleared right on time as classes officially begin on Monday.

It’s certainly good news that Johnson is officially with the program now, however he did miss a lot of time throughout the summer. The majority of the incoming freshmen have been working with the team since June. He’ll have some catching up to do.

Johnson’s expectations for this season remain unknown at this point, however at 6-foot-9, 210-pounds, he has a lot of upside. The four star prospect has the size to play the power forward position, but also has the ability to stretch the floor with above average ball handling skills for a big man. Johnson has great athleticism and also runs the floor well.

Update: Eric Crawford of WDRB reports that although Johnson is now enrolled in school, the official clearance from the NCAA has yet to come.

Video: Chris Jones Steals The Show At adidas Nations

Mark Humphrey - Associated Press

Mark Humphrey – Associated Press

Prior to suffering a leg injury earlier this month, senior guard Chris Jones was one of three Cardinals to participate in the annual adidas Nations event in California. We mostly heard about Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell’s impressive performances, but Jones had a very nice showing as well.

In his last press conference, raved about how well Jones had been playing since getting down to the weight that the staff wanted him at. These highlights from the adidas Nations seem to go along with what Pitino said. On Aug. 7, Jones suffered a undisclosed leg injury, which will sideline him for three-to-five weeks. Fortunately, he should be back to 100% by the time practice starts.

ESPN Tabs Montrezl Harrell As A Top Candidate For The 2015 Wooden Award

Pete Cautilli - The Cardinal Connect

Pete Cautilli – The Cardinal Connect

Montrezl Harrell’s decision to return to school for his junior season didn’t get the national attention that it deserved. I’ve said it over and over for the past three months and I still stand by that statement.

Harrell was a lock to be taken within the top 20 of the 2014 draft and possibly could have been a lottery pick. There are plenty of talented players that returned to school this season, but I don’t think you’ll find one that has as much NBA upside as Harrell.

There aren’t many preseason All American teams floating around the world wide  web just yet, but Myron Medcalf of ESN.com recently put together his top 10 contenders for the 2015 John Wooden Award. Harrell came in at No. 2 on the list.

ESPN’s Top 10 Returning Wooden Award Candidates

1. Frank Kaminsky – Wisconsin star is one of the toughest players to defend due to his size and range, and he’s back for another run.

2. Montrezl Harrell – Louisville center is bigger, stronger and faster even though he was bigger, stronger and faster than everyone last season.

3. Marcus Paige – Averaged 17.5 points per game and 4.2 assists per game for North Carolina last season, but he’ll have more help and the potential for a more productive year.

4. Fred Van Vleet (or Ron Baker) – Wichita State’s point guard finished fourth nationally with a 4.02 assist-to-turnover ratio, and he’ll take on a bigger scoring role this year. But Baker, a future pro wing, could ultimately represent Wichita State in the Wooden Award mix.

5. Branden Dawson – Tom Izzo’s team will be built around the sturdy, skilled 6-foot-6 forward who was a McDonald’s All-American before injuries interrupted his progress.

6. Georges Niang – Iowa State power forward excels with an IQ and arsenal few bigs can match, and he’s healthy again after suffering a foot injury during last season’s NCAA tournament.

7. Andrew Harrison – Kentucky point guard will lead the deepest frontcourt in the country and most talented roster in America.

8. Ryan Boatright – Had 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in win over Kentucky in national title game, and now UConn is his squad.

10. Chasson Randle – The Stanford guard averaged 18.7 PPG and shot 39 percent from the 3-point line for a Cardinal team that reached the Sweet 16 last season.
Juwan Staten – If you haven’t heard of Staten (18.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 40 percent from the 3-point line for West Virginia last season), you will. Soon.

Louisville would need to have a very good season for Harrell to actually win the award, but when you consider the pieces around him, particularly Terry Rozier, it’s definitely possible. I realize the Wooden Award isn’t given based on pro potential, but of those ten player, Harrell is without question the best NBA prospect.

Terry Rozier Is Ready To Meet The High Expectations This Season

Photo: Pete Cautilli

Photo: Pete Cautilli

No one on the Louisville basketball roster will have a more increased role during the 2014-15 season than sophomore guard Terry Rozier.

The Cleveland native had a solid freshman campaign, averaging seven points in 19-minutes of action. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that Rozier had a bigger impact last season then the numbers show.

We saw plenty throughout the season that shows just how much potential Rozier has.

Playing behind someone like Russ Smith kept Rozier from being a focal point of the backcourt, however learning from one of the best players to ever wear the Cardinal uniform was very beneficial.

Rozier has shown throughout that he’s capable o f being one of the top guards in the country next season. After sensational showings at the Kyrie Irving Elite PG Camp, the Lebron James Skills Academy and the adidas Nations Camp, Rozier is now projected to be taken in the lottery of the 2015 NBA Draft.

Although he’s happy to hear the high praise from NBA Draft gurus’ Rozier says he doesn’t let it get to him.

“That’s something that I’m happy I’m a part of and happy to be hearing about,” he tells NBC Sports. “I don’t really let it get to me much, but I’m happy to take on the challenge. Right now, you hear talk about it but that means nothing if I don’t do anything sthis season.”

National media members aren’t the only ones who have high praise for Rozier in his sophomore season.

“I do believe we have a future All-American player on our team in Terry Rozier,” Russ Smith said following the 2014 season.

“He was much more capable of doing more. I think next year we’re going to see a lot more Terry Rozier asserting himself into a role that will be very, very nice.”

Rozier doesn’t seem to be shying away from the high expectations. “I’m really confident in myself,” he says. “I’m ready to play. I’m ready to do it.”