The 2013 Defending National Champions return 3 of 5 starters and its entire bench for the 2013-14 season. The Louisville Cardinals actually return 5852 of 8125 minutes (72%), 2254 of 2978 points (75.6%), 1067 of 1471 rebounds (72.5%), 290 of 584 (49.6%) assists, 79 of 168 blocks (47%), and 296 of 430 (68.84%) of steals from last season. But two pieces, the point guard & center position depart while the Cards do reload with a Top 10 recruiting class.
Peyton Siva will be tough to replace. Siva leaves Louisville 37th All-Time in scoring, 1st in Steals, 2nd in assists, and appeared in the 2nd most games in Cardinal Basketball history. The point guard spot isn’t going to be easily filled now that Siva is gone. Peyton played 1247 of 1625 possible minutes (76.7%) for the Cards in 2012-13.
Gorgui Dieng has been the security blanket for the Cardinal defense the past couple of seasons. Whenever plays were beaten out top they could have a lot of confidence that Gorgui would be right there to back them up. Gorgui leaves with 851 career points, 801 rebounds and 2nd All-Time in Career Blocks. By skipping his senior season Gorgui will miss out on the All-Time Rebounding list, but his impact is unlikely to ever be forgotten.
Mike Marra was injured during pre-season drills and missed the season. His absence was significant as the Cards used a short guard rotation all season.
Chris Jones (5-10, 185) 5-stars on 247Sports.com, 4-stars on both Rivals & Scout.com and is widely regarded at the #1 JUCO player in the country. JUCOs are rare for Rick Pitino & the University of Louisville basketball program, but the Northwest Florida State Point Guard played 23.2 minutes per game and averaged 21.8 points to go along with 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.
You might hear a lot of people talk about JUCOs not panning out, but the 2012 #1 JUCO went to Memphis, Geron Johnson, Johnson finished his first season with the Tigers as the team’s 4th leading scorer with 10.4 points per game. The 2011 #1 JUCO was Pierre Jackson who was the Bear’s leading scorer for two straight seasons capped with with a 19.8 ppg average for 2012-13.
Louisville fans & other folks have a right to be skeptical about junior-college players due to historical results on the hardwood, but Wichita State just made an incredible run with three Top 15 JUCOs from the past two classes in Cleanthony Early & Nick Wiggins from the 2012 class & Carl Hall from the 2011 class. Early & Hall were the Shockers #1 & #2 scorers for Wichita State’s Final Four Season, and Hall hails from the same JUCO as Louisville’s Chris Jones (Northwest Florida State). Not to mention the recent success of other JUCOs recently like Tyrus McGree (Iowa State), Carlos Emory (Oregon), and Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss).
I like Rick Pitino’s odds of having landed a top notch performer at the point guard position. Pitino has spoken highly of Chris Jones since his signing was announced and even mentioned naming a horse after the incoming junior college star. Jones originally signed with Tennessee (same class as Kevin Ware) before opting for JUCO. Jones will have an opportunity to win the PG spot for 2013-14.
Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 200 Fr.) is going to become a fan favorite because of his out-going personality. Mangok (Pronounced “Mango”) is Sudanese and comes to the United States by way of Austrailia. Mangok redsirted last season and went up against the Louisville “Bigs” in practice all season. I’m definitely interested in his most recent measurement on his weight, because in person he looks much larger than his listed 200 lbs. Mathiang came to the Cards very late & off the radar and was considered a pretty significant project at the time of his arrival. Mangok averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks at IMG Academy, and will be 21 years old this October.
Terry Rozier (6-1, 170, Fr.) originally signed with Louisville for the 2012 class, but had some work to do so comes to Louisville via Hargrave Military Academy instead of his Shaker Heights, OH (Cleveland) High School. A year in prep school served Rozier well, not only getting his academics in order, but also on the basketball court. Rozier’s stock went up from 4-star status out of High School, to 5-star status out of Prep (according to 247Sports, and Scout.com. Rivals.com still lists Rozier as a 4-star prospect).
Hargrave Military Academy has been good to the Cards with former HMA Head Coach Kevin Keatts, Forward Montrezl Harrell, and the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock having roots at the private Virginia school. Rozier was the 2012 MVP of the Derby Festival Classic and increased his profile scoring 68 points in a game (55 after halftime) against Action Sports Academy from Georgia at Louisville’s Iroquois High School. Rozier and current Cardinal Zach Price are cousins, Rozier will be tried at both point guard and 2-guard and should find himself in the guard rotation for 2013-14.
Anton Gill (6-4, 180, Fr.) also comes from Hargrave Military Academy and moved from Ravencroft High School in Raleigh, NC after his junior year. The Cards get Gill from deep out of Carolina, and is universally considered a Top 75 player (4-stars by every service) and a Top-15 two-guard. Gill committed early to Louisville during his junior season, yet still had offers from Wake Forest & North Carolina State. The lefty scored 56 points this season at Hargrave, which was the Hargrave record before his teammate Terry Rozier broke it with his 68.
Gill should factor in 2013-14 at the 2-guard & small forward spots. Gill can score and he finds himself kind of in a packed position at a veteran spot for UofL, but he still has a lot of value early for the Cards. The best thing Gill can do coming into camp is be in incredible shape and work on defense. Whatever the Cards get out of Gill in 2013-14 is a bonus, we’ll see a lot more of him in 2014-15.
Akoy Agau (6-9, 220, Fr.) big player, big personality. Pronounced “Uh-Koy Uh-Gow”, Agau led his Omaha Central team to 4 consecutive Nebraska Class A State Championships. Akoy is the first player in Nebraska State history to play on four Class A state title teams. Agau originally from the Sudan and moved to Cario, Egypt before finding his way stateside, he also speaks three languages (Dinka, Arabic, & English).
As far as basketball is concerned, Agau is ESPN’s 76th best prospect for the 2013 class, and 98th in 247sports.com’s rankings. Akoy is considered the #13 Center according to Rivals.com, and 19th according to Scout.com at the 5-spot. Rick Pitino said he “immediately wanted to see him in a Louisville uniform…….He has a very high Basketball IQ.” Akoy is a very good offensive basketball player that needs to work on his defense and rebounding, which is why Louisville and Rick Pitino are probably the perfect fit. Agau will challenge Stephan Van Treese, Mangok Mathiang, and Zach Price for time at the Center position in 2013-14.
David Levitch (6-3, 155, Fr.) walk-on from North Oldham High School.
Dillon Avare (5-11, 140, Fr.) walk-on from Lexington Catholic High School.
Chris Jones (5-10, 185, Jr.)
Dillon Avare (5-11, 140, Fr.)
Russ Smith (6-0, 165, Sr.)
Logan Baumann (6-0, 165, Fr.)
Jordan Bond (6-0, 165, Soph.)
Terry Rozier (6-1, 170, Fr.)
Michael Baffour “Dark Slime” (6-2, 170, Sr.)
Kevin Ware (6-2, 175, Jr.)
Tim Henderson (6-2, 195, Sr.)
David Levitch (6-3, 155, Fr.)
Anton Gill (6-4, 180, Fr.)
Wayne Blackshear (6-5, 230, Jr.)
Luke Hancock (6-6, 200, Sr.)
Chane Behanan (6-6, 250, Jr.)
Montrezl Harrell (6-8, 235, Soph.)
Akoy Agau (6-9, 220, Fr.)
Stephan Van Treese (6-9, 245, Sr.)
Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 200, Fr.)
Zach Price (6-10, 250, Jr.)
Russ Smith had an absolutely phenomenal season. Russ scored the 2nd most points in a single season at UofL with 748 points, on the 10th most field goals made in a single season for the Cards. Russdiculous also made 222 Free Throws on the year which is by far and away the most FTs made in a single season, while also having the 8th best steal season in Cardinal Basketball season to go along with 116 assists. Russ’ production was improved in almost every category from his first TWO seasons. His return to the Cards positions Louisville as a major contender for the 2014 National Championship. Russ is likely to play the 2-guard next season, but he might also try out some point guard as well.
Logan Baumann appeared in 4 games in 2013-14. Logged 11 minutes. Scored 2 points, 3 rebounds.
Jordan Bond appeared in 5 games in 2013-14. Logged 17 minutes, did not score. 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal.
Michael Baffour (aka Dark Slime) appeared in 6 games , logged 12 minutes, scored 2 points, 1 rebound.
Kevin Ware will return for 2013-14 after suffering a broken leg during Louisville’s Regional Final vs. Duke. Ware’s celebrity accelerated faster than even what his game was at the time of his injury. Ware was really playing extraordinary basketball from late February up until the time of his injury. Ware’s main contribution is on defense, his speed and length really causes problems for ball handlers, but Ware really was coming out of his shell as a point guard as well. Ware’s outlook for 2013-14 almost entirely depends on his recovery, so it is tough to project his impact on the upcoming season.
If Ware is back to action and is 100% by the time camp opens he will be in a battle for the starting point guard spot. But with Chris Jones, Russ Smith, and Terry Rozier rushing Ware back will not be necessary, and getting him 100% healthy, his speed restored, and his conditioning back into basketball shape will be the priority. My expectation is for Kevin to work hard this off-season once he is cleared by doctors and as long as there are no setbacks to see him grow as the season goes on. I think we are all excited to see him complete his rehab and play basketball again.
Tim Henderson saved the day against Wichita State nailing two 3s from the corner igniting a comeback in the National Semifinal. ”Hendo” as he is affectionately known by the Cardinal fanbase, played a key role as the 4th guard in the rotation last year. The Cards generally used 3 guards, but in foul situations and then after Kevin Ware’s injury Henderson was extremely important. Tim is a reliable ball-handler and defender, and while he isn’t as athletic as Russ or Kevin Ware really showed his value during 2013-14. Tim appeared in 27 games.
Wayne Blackshear still has A LOT of upside. Blackshear came to Louisville with a lot of hype as a 5-star McDonald’s All-American and basically missed his 1st season with the Cards after double shoulder surgery. That setback really affected his development, but Wayne was able to appear in 39 of 40 games during the 2013-14 season while basically splitting minutes with Forward Luke Hancock at the 3-spot.
Wayne had some really nice games during the 2012-13 season and he disappeared a lot too. I’d really like to see Blackshear assert himself on offense more rather than waiting on an open look beyond the arc. Wayne needs to work on his defense and not getting so many cheap fouls. Because he essentially split time with Luke this didn’t matter as much, but in games where he was really playing well offensively he was limited due to his foul situation. There is a lot of room to grow in Wayne’s game, and a possible preview into what is possible for 2013-14 is playing Luke & Wayne together as the Cards did in the National Championship game and were +15 while the combo was on the floor. It will be interesting to see if Pitino decides to use the Russ, Luke, & Wayne combo and if not if Wayne continues to start over the 2013 NCAA Most Outstanding Player. I think there is a lot of growth potential in Wayne’s game, he & CardNation both would do well to see it realized.
Luke Hancock has let it known that he heard your early season boos. Hancock started slowly from beyond the arc, but finished the season shooting 39.9% from 3-point land including 4 in a row starting with the Cards down 12 in the National Championship game. But Hancock’s drastic improvement really wasn’t as a shooter, he could always shoot and an injured shoulder held him back initially. Hancock’s weakness to start the season was as a defender. I remember specifically thinking that Luke would never be able to stay in front of a guard on the perimeter…..by season’s end that was no longer a concern. Whether or not his shoulder also affected his feet, or hard work paid off, Hancock’s defense allowed him to play more minutes and subsequently hit more shots.
As a I mentioned in Wayne’s piece, I really liked the Luke/Wayne combination that was +15 in the national championship game. The bigger lineup could really help the Cards when they are having trouble with bigger teams up top. But also the combination of a speedy lineup with a bigger lineup can also make the Cards a very dynamic ball club. For Luke, he’s returning as a team captain and it is well-deserved as the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, will he start or continue to come off the bench? Either way Luke Hancock will be a big piece of the puzzle for the Cards in 2013-14.
Chane Behanan had almost identical seasons from his Freshman to Sophomore year and played his best basketball during Crunch Time. But if the former 5-star McDonald’s All-American wants to parlay that into an NBA career he needs to take his clutch play and make that his regular effort. Effort is impossible to measure, the only person who truly can be honest about his effort comes from within. Behanan’s ability is off the charts, even as a 6-6 Power Forward. Chane played less minutes, took 14 more shots, shot a lower percentage both from the field and the free throw line, had less rebounds, fewer blocks, and just 1 more point from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
If Behanan wants to play in the NBA he needs to showcase his obvious uptick in effort and it wouldn’t hurt to develop a reliable jumper. Chane doesn’t need to be a 3-point shooter, but he does need to be able to move away from the basket and still score in order to be a pro. At the college level, I actually like Chane Behanan at the Free Throw line better than I like a lot of players in clutch situations. I also like Chane in the game PERIOD with the game on the line, but I just think his career would skyrocket if THAT player actually played 26 minutes per game and didn’t go 15 games without a double digit rebound effort. Behanan isn’t asked to be a big-time BLOCK performer, and he does have excellent body control rarely getting into foul trouble. Also I really thought his steals were off the charts during 2012-13 season. I’d just like to see Chane’s “A” game more often, and I know the scouts would too. Behanan can be a pro if he takes his craft seriously.
Montrezl Harrell played a key role for Louisville spelling Chane Behanan at the Power Forward position. In certain situations Harrell actually won the game for the Cards (see Big East Championship vs. Syracuse). Montrezl Harrell drips with NBA potential, he is 6-8 with an enormous wingspan, sure handed, powerful finisher, and can run the floor like a guard. Harrell just needs to play with consistency. I honestly can’t wait to see what Year 2 Montrezl Harrell looks like. His dunk in the National Championship game was his only 2 points against Michigan, but people will probably never stop talking about it.
A lot of fans want to see Montrezl at Center in an effort to get the best 5 players on the floor for the Cards in 2013-14. I don’t think that is a bad plan, except that Harrell is a power forward and the Cards have plenty of potential Centers. Playing Harrell & Behanan in rotation works well, just like Luke & Wayne. Harrell demanding more time would only provide the Cards with more time from a supremely talented athlete and a more well-rested Chane Behanan. Not a bad thing at all.
Stephan Van Treese finally played an entire season healthy and in shape. Big Hustle’s 11.2 minutes per game were invaluable for the Cards giving Gorgui a rest, and actually I think there is an argument that the dropoff wasn’t that significant. SVT isn’t the shot blocker that Gorgui is, but he is a more active rebounder. The best thing about Van Treese’s game in 2012-13 was his Free Throw improvement: SVT shot just 17 free throws on the season, but he made 12. Compare that to his previous seasons at Louisville where he was 11 of 34 and it raises an eyebrow. Stephan is in the mix to start the season at the Center position, he is a big body, good defender and is definitely Louisville’s most experienced Center. If you are going to criticized SVT’s game at all, he is a step slow at times, a little foul prone when you factor in his fouls per minutes (often the case with back-up Centers however), and his game is almost entirely below the rim on defense. But despite that the Cards are in great shape with Stephan Van Treese at the Center spot.
Zach Price is a tough one to figure out. He is Louisville’s biggest player and when Gorgui Dieng missed time with a broken wrist, Zach Price started for the Cards. Zach will enter 2013-14 as a veteran on the Cardinal basketball team, but played just 123 minutes last season grabbing a total of 22 rebounds and 5 blocks. It isn’t terrible production per minute, but you would like to think that the JUNIOR version of Zach Price can start seeing some solid production for all of the hard work he and the staff has put in since his arrival at Louisville. The good news for the Cards & Zach Price is that there is a lot of competition for an open spot and someone has to win.
There are A LOT of questions to be answered. Will Kevin Ware be fully healthy for next season? How will the incoming players fit in right away? Who wins the Center spot? Will coach Pitino elect to play Luke Hancock & Wayne Blackshear together more often? There are a lot of different ways this can go, and from opponent to opponent this roster gives the Cards a lot of flexibility to be dynamic as a basketball club. The Cards should be able to match-up against smaller/quick teams and also match-up against teams will a lot of length. Here is my best guess for a depth chart here in April (Note, I put Agau in the PF spot as I think he could end up there, but also so as to not create a new line. I do think he will initially battle at Center):
||Stephan Van Treese
||Luke Hancock (1a)
Rotations Coach Pitino is known for using players in different roles, and I don’t think anyone would expect him to stick to a vanilla rotation. Case in point when Luke Hancock & Wayne Blackshear shared the floor for the first time all season in the National Championship against Michigan. That combo netted a +15 in the title game the first time it was ever used. I think early on Coach Pitino will use a lot of different varieties, particularly with the new guys but I look for Coach Pitino to have a fast lineup that can create havoc in the backcourt and also have an answer for some bigger teams (like Syracuse who the Cards don’t play in 2013-14). I do think Russ Smith will have the opportunity to run some point guard. I also think Luke Hancock will play some 2-guard, and possibly Wayne Blackshear as well. I don’t think Anton Gill is strictly a wing player and might play some 2-guard. Just like I think Terry Rozier might also run some point guard. I also think that if the Center experiment doesn’t have a solid starter by the time the season starts that Montrezl Harrell might be looked at some 5 and possibly the Cards just playing two Forwards. As you can see the roster provides a lot of options for Coach Pitino to work with.
Louisville Guard Russ Smith Cuts the Nets on the Floor of the Georgia Dome following his Cardinals victory over Michigan in the 2013 National Championship game. Russ wears a shirt of him and his high school coach (late) Jack Curran.