With Sunday’s game against Virginia Tech, Louisville fans will say goodbye to five seniors and probably at least one junior. It’s been a wild ride for everybody with multiple coaches both permanent and interim, some high highs and some rather low lows.
This year’s squad was full of experience, with nine juniors, seniors and graduate transfers. And they all contributed in ways small and large.
Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble
A grad transfer from St. Joseph’s, he was the only Hawk to ever be a team captain three-straight years. He was brought on this year partly to fill the gaping chasm at point guard and also because Louisville loves it some Lamars, no matter how many R’s they have.
Fresh is a point guard in the traditional sense, more about ball movement and distribution and less on scoring. He’s scored ten points or more in only four games this season, with a respectable assist/turnover ratio of 1.74. He has played for one of the best Louisville teams in the last few years, getting the ball to guys who could score it better than he could.
Say, did you know that Dick Vitale convinced Rick Pitino to…hey wait, where are you going?
Pitino had a rather simple philosophy when it came to playing time. If you couldn’t understand or effectively run his complex defensive schemes , you’re butt was staying on the bench no matter how many points you could score. Thus was the first two years of Ryan’s career spent, as the victory cigar; riding the pine until the games were well in hand, bounding off the bench and shooting threes as if his life depended on it.
He averaged just over six minutes a game in the 2016-17 season. He had some good moments, the highlight being a 15-point, five three-pointer, five assist game in late January. But he was never more than a stopgap in the Pitino era.
Then came the 2017-18 season, and the head coach changed from Pitino to David Padgett hours before the first practice was set to start.
Padgett had the unenviable job of patching together a coaching staff, offensive and defensive schemes for his first head coaching gig.
While this whole transition was difficult for everybody, McMahon saw his minutes almost triple. His scoring…not so much. His ppg nearly doubled, and he matched his career-high of 15 points twice. Most impressive was him doing this after suffering some cracked ribs in the preseason, his first action coming in mid-October 2017. He also had his first start against Marquette in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.
Last season was the first under Chris Mack, and as one of the elder statesmen of the squad he saw even more minutes and his performance increased as a result. He got a new career high of 24 in unranked Louisville’s upset win over #5 Michigan State on November 27, 2018. And his nine assists against Miami were the most a Cardinal had gotten since 2015.
This year has been more of the same. He started the first 13 games and played quality minutes the rest.
He hit a lot of threes, but when he wasn’t hitting he wasn’t scoring much. And his defense was never going to win any awards. But he has a fire and drive that few of his teammates ever possessed, such as recently when he took on the entire Florida State bench by himself.
He will be missed, hearing Dick Vitale talk about him will not.
One of four Louisville natives on the Cards. Sutton was the Seventh Region Player of the Year for 2014-15 at Manual High.
He initially signed with UNC Asheville as a freshman and excelled there as well, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors in 2015. He gained a reputation as a double-double machine, and carried that over to the Cards.
After redshirting the 2016-2017 season, his minutes were all over the place his first year in a Louisville uniform but he made the most of the time he had, contributing both in points and rebounds. He even started the last three games of the season.
He started every game of the 2018-2019 season and returning to to being a double-double machine, earning double-doubles in three-straight games at one mount. He proved he could score from the inside and outside in a game against North Carolina, scoring a career-high 19 points including four three-pointers.
Sutton’s started every game this season too, earning five double-doubles and getting close in plenty of other games. He is a consummate “glue guy”, someone who can and would do a little bit of everything to will his team to victory.
Enoch played two years at UConn before transferring to Louisville, with his first year playing for the Cards the 2018-2019 season. Much like Sutton he was a jack of all trades, scoring inside and out, crashing boards and blocking shots. And like Sutton he’d show toughness and grit over most of his teammates, singlehandedly keep the Cards in games when no one else could do much of anything.
Another graduate transfer who spent three years as a walk-on at Richmond. Oddo actually has a couple connections to past Cardinal players. He was on the same Spiders squad as Kwan Fore, who was a graduate transfer at Louisville for the 2018-2019 season. He’s also from Roanoke, Virginia, the same hometown as Cardinal legend Luke Hancock.
Oddo hasn’t played much this season, a total of eight minutes. But he’s provided much needed encouragement from the bench and will certainly be ready should his moment ever come.
Although technically a junior, this may very well be the last time we see Jordan Nwora playing in The Yum Center. The highest ranked high schooler that had come to Louisville in a while (and actually played), Nwora ranked No. 54 in the ESPN 100, No. 90 nationally by Rivals.com, and 105th by 247Sports.com composite.
Nwora’s first season was also David Padgett’s. 2017-2018 was a rough year for so many, many reasons and the team struggled as a result. Their play was all over the place. Also all over the place was Nwora’s minutes. He’d play almost 20 minutes one game, scoring in double figures, and then barely see the floor at all the next contest.
With Rick Pitino you knew those who could not defend did not play, but Padgett’s philosophy on playing time was a mystery. And Nwora didn’t see much clock even as the regular season wore down and the Cards desperately needed some help to try to make the NCAA tournament. Many fans were left asking “Nwora, where’s Nwora?”
They were not asking this question last year. Becoming the starter five games into the 2018 season, his minutes and points per game tripled under Chris Mack. He scored 32 points against Boston College, the first Cardinal to score more than 30 points since Wayne Blackshear in 2014.
Nwora proved himself the total package, earning nine double-doubles last season.
He was voted preseason player of the year before this season, and has lived up to that billing for most of it. He’s averaged almost 18 points this year, scoring 20 or more in 13 games, including a career-high 37 points against Boston College.
Not that he’s without fault. He’s had some mysteriously bad performances this season, against some of the biggest opponents, including scoring only eight points at Kentucky and six at Duke. And then there was the seven total points against Georgia Tech and Clemson a few weeks ago, that led to his one-game removal from the starting lineup.
Nwora’s shown an unfortunate tendency to react poorly when aggressively defended, throwing him off his game and causing fans to once again ask “Nwora, where’s Nwora?”
This years squad is definitely going to live and die with him though, and certainly wouldn’t be near the top of the ACC without him.
All of these Cards have been through some tremendous changes no matter how long they’ve spent in a Louisville uniform. All of them truly embody the phrase “Louisville First. Cards Forever.”
So be sure to not only support them against Virginia Tech, but the rest of the season and in all their future endeavors.<