On Saturday afternoon Louisville fans got their first chance to see Chris Mack’s squad in competitive action in the annual Red-White scrimmage.
The format on Saturday was slightly different than what fans are used to. Instead of two 20-minute halves Mack decided to show fans roughly 45-minutes of what a practice looks like and then have a 20-minute intra-squad scrimmage to finish up the day.
The practice session was certainly interesting to see, however there weren’t as many takeaways compared to the actual scrimmage. With that said, a glaring observation was the increased competitiveness. Even with Malik Williams and David Johnson out with injuries, you can tell that the added pieces have made things very competitive in practice. The coaches now have enough bodies and talent to split teams in practice and really get after each other. That wasn’t the case a year ago.
In the 20-minute scrimmage the rosters appeared to be split fairly evenly.
Red Starters: Fresh, Enoch, Withers, Nickelberry & Sutton.
White Starters: Perry, McMahon, Williamson, Nwora & Igiehon
Quinn Slazlinski and Aidan Igiehon shared front-court minutes for the White team. Keith Oddo was the lone reserve for the Red team, but played less than two.
Had you told me the rosters ahead of time I probably would’ve picked the White team as the winning squad considering they had both Nwora and Williamson. Clearly I would’ve been wrong because Steven Enoch was the best player on the floor and it wasn’t close.
Enoch’s 21-points came against freshman bigs, but it wasn’t just the numbers that stood out for the big fella. He looked to be in much better shape from a year ago and was much more sure of himself. Despite being a fifth year senior Enoch didn’t receive significant minutes as a college player until last season. He looked much more polished on Saturday afternoon.
Jordan Nwora was quietly impressive leading the White team with 16-points. Similar to what we saw last year, Nwora scored in a blur. He got off to somewhat of a slow start and then seemingly out of nowhere he was in double-figures. For Nwora it’ll come down to consistently bringing it defensively and improving on his decision making.
Dwayne Sutton was very Dwayne Sutton on Saturday afternoon with 16-points, seven rebounds and three steals. The Louisville native was active on both ends and played within himself. Sutton’s ability to get to the free throw line is going to come in handy when shots aren’t falling.
Fresh Kimble is likely the most important newcomer on the roster considering he’s going to be asked to fill the void left by Christen Cunningham. It’d be a lie to say Fresh played poorly, but he was very quiet. As you can see from the boxscore Kimble didn’t have much of an impact. Mack was pretty blunt afterwards in saying that Fresh simply has to be better.
Darius Perry might’ve been the most pleasant surprise of the afternoon. The boxscore doesn’t show it, but Perry played very well. The junior combo-guard looked much more under control compared to what we saw last season. Perry seemed to be much more cognizant that his role was to run the offense rather than be overly aggressive. Darius isn’t the first player that comes to mind for fans when thinking of how special this team can be, but if he can take a big step forward as a junior that’d be insanely huge for Chris Mack’s backcourt.
The freshmen class scored a total of 7-points in the 20-minutes scrimmage. Josh Nickelberry finished with five points while Samuell Williamson had two-points. As bad as that might look, I wouldn’t worry too much. The reality is that the talented youngsters are going up against grown men that are very talented. For example, Aidan Igiehon and Quinn Slazlinski likely won’t face many if any better bigs this year than Steven Enoch. Samuell Williamson won’t face many better physical defenders than fifth year senior Dwayne Sutton.
Overall, I feel no differently about this squad following the scrimmage than I did beforehand. Mack has the talent and experience to put together a very special season. Not to mention, they’ll get back Malik Williams and David Johnson before too long.