CRAWFORD | Louisville pregame scout: Red-White scrimmage, 5 things to watch
There will be a lot of firsts when the University of Louisville basketball team takes the court for a Red-White scrimmage tonight at the KFC Yum! Center. Eric Crawford talks about what to watch for.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s not a real game, but as with everything now surrounding the University of Louisville program and team, it’s a real curiosity.
When the Cardinals take the KFC Yum! Center court for Friday 7 p.m. Red-White Scrimmage, it will be their first appearance without Rick Pitino, first appearance since the school’s coaching staff was gutted because of the program’s implication in a federal college basketball corruption investigation, first appearance with David Padgett as head coach, and a first chance for fans to show whether they are with this program or weary of it.
The last time he sat down with reporters, Padgett hadn’t given the game much thought, and that’s understandable, given that he’s still trying to put together a coaching staff on the fly, amid a hundred other unexpected duties.
“Obviously, we're very excited for Friday,” Padgett said. “I know our freshmen are eager to get out there under the lights, in front of people and play. I think it will be good for the fans to get to see our guys for the first time, get the freshmen broken into the arena. We're hoping for a really big crowd.”
Padgett didn’t know on Thursday how he would split up the rosters, whether he’d be on the sidelines.
“We actually started talking about that (Thursday),” he said. “There's a couple different schools of thoughts on that -- break it up with experienced guys with younger guys, put the more experienced guys together and let them play against the younger guys. The thing about intrasquad scrimmages is no matter what you decide you want to do, you usually have to make changes at halftime or during the game because with 14 players you only have two subs on each team, so fatigue becomes a factor. We'll look at some things today from a personnel standpoint and do what we think is best.”
Here are some key things to watch:
1). THE CROWD. I’ve said I expect Louisville fans will show up big for this scrimmage, just as a statement to Padgett and players that they support them – and as a statement that they support the program post-Pitino, but it’s hard to say, and whether this is the game to measure that is debatable. Still, it’s the first chance for fans to gather since the events that rocked their program, and all of college basketball, in late September.
In general, these scrimmages have been sparsely attended, with the lower bowl partially filled and that’s about it.
2). THE DISPOSITION. These players wanted Padgett as coach, and Anas Mahmoud, Deng Adel and Quentin Snider were among those who made the team’s wishes known to school administrators.
I’ll be watching for how they interact with Padgett on the court, how they interact with each other, and what their general disposition is. These guys have been through a lot in a short time, and Louisville’s season is going to depend more than anything else on their resilience and ability to focus through all of these changes.
From the outside, all of the reports of their adjustment to the changes have been glowingly positive.
“I haven’t had to coach effort once,” Padgett said, “which is a major, major positive. We've been able to focus on Xs and Os, getting guys ready to play, and we seem to be getting better every day. Our emphasis each day is on different things because we've got a lot of work to do. But so far no complaints on my end with my team. It's been a very, very good couple weeks.”
Trent Johnson, who met the players this week before being introduced as a full-time assistant to Padgett, said he was impressed with them as individuals.
“Looking at how they've handled all of this under David's leadership has been very, very impressive to me,” Johnson said.
3). PADGETT’S DEMEANOR. One of the refreshing things about a coach like Padgett is that he hasn’t perfected his “spin.” So what you hear is pretty much his straightforward opinion.
Coaching – as the head coach – is like anything else. You have to find your voice. Padgett comes from a family of coaches, so he should have an easier time than most, but when asked if he’d found a comfort zone yet, his answer was candid.
“I don't know if I have,” he said. “I'm not going to say it's getting easier on the court, but I think things have slowed down for me a little bit. The first day we practiced it seemed like things were going a million miles an hour; it was probably one of the most disorganized, chaotic practices these guys have ever been through. But I think things have slowed down, the guys have kind of gotten used to me and how I'm going to do with them.”
4). DEVELOPMENT OF RETURNING PLAYERS. The last time I talked to Rick Pitino, he was still raving about Ray Spalding’s improvement. He’d had a talk with Spalding after last season, and impressed upon him that the time for him to make a move was now. A year from now, many may have written him off.
NBA scouts who visited Louisville’s combine last week reportedly said Deng Adel was the most impressive player on the court. Comfort level is a big thing for Adel. He’s been great in workouts and practices and incredibly consistent in games for a while. Now he’s expected to slide into the role of star. We’ll see if he’s ready for that designation.
Quentin Snider is reportedly quicker, and looked it in a brief bit of practice the media was allowed to watch a short time ago. Anas Mahmoud has put on weight. V.J. King looked improved in every area. Ryan McMahon will be needed in spots for his ability to inject perimeter offense.
5). THE NEW GUYS. It’ll be the first time Louisville’s newcomers will take the court at the KFC Yum! Center. One who won’t be able to play with the team – transfer Steven Enoch, from Connecticut – probably was the most impressive in the short practice the media was able to see recently.
Dwayne Sutton, a transfer from UNC Asheville and a former standout at Manual, will be asked to give the Cards a physical presence inside and will be looked to help in rebounding. Pitino was high on Jordan Nwora a month ago, and Malik Williams was the most highly touted player in the class and is making strides. Lance Thomas, a 6-8 forward, and Darius Perry, a point guard, will get plenty of chances to get their feet wet in a scrimmage with only two subs per team.
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