CRAWFORD | Mack press conference: 5 things to know
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack sat down with reporters for the first time since April 9, which means there was no shortage of things to talk about.
Some highlights from the Q&A on Tuesday in the Yum! Center practice facility.
1). THE ROSTER IS IN FLUX. When asked if his roster for the upcoming season is in its final form, Mack couldn’t say.
“You know as much as I do when it comes to that,” he said. “We have open scholarships, so it may look the same when fall starts, and it may look different. It's not something I have up my sleeve, but we're never going to stop looking at options to see if our team can be better than maybe it was the day before.”
One new addition didn’t last long. Matt Hanna, a walk-on guard from Division III Colby College whose transfer was announced just five days ago, has left the program.
“We added and subtracted Matt Hanna,” Mack said. “So Matt Hanna is no longer a part of our team. He didn’t do anything other than he got here and realized he didn’t want to sit out a year. It was the quickest Louisville basketball tenure ever.”
2). NWORA OPENED EYES IN AFRICA. Sophomore-to-be Jordan Nwora led the Nigerian National Team in the 2018 FIBA World Cup African Qualifiers. His 36 points in a win over Mali were the most ever scored by a Nigerian team member in an international competition.
Nwora played for his father, Alex Nwora, but said he isn’t sure if he’ll take part in any future Nigerian National Team competitions. Mack said he thought it was a good experience for Nwora, and encourages his players to do that kind of thing.
“As long as they don't get hurt,” he said. “What a great experience for Jordan. He used the words physical and tough an awful lot during his answers, and I think anytime you can play internationally, you're going to play against men. You're going to play against guys who are 30 years old and have a family and kids. You better be physical. I think the one thing that I was really excited about -- I know Jordan can score the ball. We all know he can shoot the ball. But to rebound the way he did at the international level, to almost average double-figure rebounds, says a lot about his capability as an overall player and not just a shooter.”
3). THERE’S A DIFFERENT APPROACH IN THE WEIGHT ROOM. Longtime strength and conditioning coach Ray Ganong has announced his retirement, and Mack said he sees some differences in the way he directs strength training under new coach Andy Kettler, who came to U of L from West Virginia.
Asked about his approach, Mack said, “I think it's very different.”
Elaborating, Mack said, “No. 1 I think that Coach G was a guy that did what coach asked. He wanted his players to be able to run up and down and press and play for 40 minutes. And I think that's obviously why they were very successful. But in basketball there's a million ways to skin a cat. I want our guys to be tough. I want them to be physical. Somebody said the word big. We don't aim to get our guys big. We aim to get them stronger. I think that's what coach Kettler puts his focus into with our guys, getting them stronger. He obviously came from a place at West Virginia where they weren't stuck in mud in the half-court. They played full-court basketball, they pressed, they were as physical as any team in the country. So I think there's a little bit of a misnomer when you start to think that Coach Mack just wants his guys bigger and we're not going to be able to get up and down the floor. There's so many timeouts now between TV timeouts and coach-called timeouts, that I think there's ample time for your guys to rest and be able to recover and play fast and play the way we want to, in an aggressive, attacking style.”
4). AKOY AGAU EXPECTED TO BE IMPROVED. Mack’s big concern with Akoy Agau, who transferred back to the school where he began as a freshman, is whether the coaching staff can get him healthy enough to play an entire season. But his experience could be an asset for the Cardinals.
“I think (Agau) had a fondness for Louisville,” Mack said. “The school, the city, fellow students. He's had a wild ride to say the least. With Akoy, we felt like if we can get him healthy enough to get through a season, he can help us. He's a guy who can help us do the dirty work. He's a much better player than when he was a freshman, like most guys that are in their later years in college, and he's in his very, very late years. He's seen so many different styles of play, gone up against so many different types of players, that I think he's versatile and adaptable enough to be able to come back to where it all started for him and hopefully a much better version of himself. We don't need him to be Shaquille O'Neal. We need him to grab some rebound and play post defense. And anytime you can get an experienced frontcourt player, we want to do that.”
5). FBI QUESTIONS ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL. They do come up. Recruits and their families want to know how stable the program is, and what it could be facing going forward. Mack said there’s only one way he knows how to tackle such questions.
““We’ve had a few,” Mack said. “But I think that’s par for the course. I sort of knew that coming in. . . . I just handle it as honestly as I can. I talk about our vision and my vision for the program, both in the short term and the long term. Each conversation is different, because each family and each prospect has a different concern. Some are more concerned about style of play. Some are more concerned about the academic side. . . . We have a whole lot of stability here at Louisville, and we feel good about the direction of the program.”
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