LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ray Spalding was a quiet guy. Often, even after his biggest games, he’d take extra long showers, not looking for media attention.

So when Ray did speak, it meant something. And I don’t think he ever spoke louder than in his emotional comments the last time I talked to him, after a National Invitation Tournament loss to Mississippi State a couple of weeks back. More on that in a bit.

Spalding has announced via his Instagram account that he has decided to enter his name into the NBA Draft and will hire an agent, passing up on a senior season with his hometown university.

He'll will have to work on his game some, but there’s little question it’s NBA caliber. His improvement from his sophomore to junior year was impressive. He got serious about his game, and it showed. Rick Pitino sat down with him after last season and gave him a, “Now is the time,” speech. He heeded it.

“Wow. That’s the only word that can be used to describe my 3 years at the University of Louisville,” Spalding said in an Instagram post. “It’s been a journey like none other that allowed me to grow in areas I didn’t even know were possible. I’d like to thank my hard-working mother, God our savior and my close family members, for their unwavering support through it all. I’d like to thank Coach Pitino, David Padgett, assistant coaching staff, video coordinating staff and the fans for their continued support. Most importantly I want to thank the city of Louisville for allowing me to live out my childhood dream.”

Spalding’s childhood dream probably didn’t include having the school decide to ban itself from the NCAA Tournament during his career. It probably didn’t include his coach being fired on the eve of a season, which fell short of an NCAA Tournament.

Some might even say his childhood dream wound up having some nightmare aspects to it, but Spalding was among those players who gathered themselves, took a cue from their coaches and handled things with a positive attitude.

After the loss to Mississippi State, Spalding didn’t shed any tears, but he nearly did. He was emotional when he spoke about what had gone on. He said he couldn’t begin to describe his emotions. He thanked Pitino and said Padgett is the only person he knew who could’ve guided that team in those circumstances.

When he left his final game, the crowd in the KFC Yum! Center gave him a standing ovation, as it should have.

“I have nothing but love and respect for David Padgett, the University of Louisville and our tremendous fan base” Spalding said. “What we’ve been through, this basketball team, my three years here, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Think about that, with all that went wrong.

“It all started with Coach Pitino. He molded me into the young man I am today,” Spalding said. “David Padgett. He’s almost a father figure to me, more of a role model. It’s tough to go through the line for the last time, shake his hand. . . . I’ve got much love for him.”

And Louisville should have much love for Spalding. Some of these seasons, Louisville fans would like to forget. But Spalding, and many of his teammates, they won’t. And shouldn’t.

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