LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The first rule of intrasquad scrimmages: Don’t read too much into intrasquad scrimmages.
I call it the Mac Wilkinson rule. He dominated a Louisville scrimmage years and years ago. And it was a nice story because he was a hometown kid and it made for a big newspaper spread. By the end of the semester, he had transfered.
So 20 minutes of basketball between two sides of the same team is not the kind of case study that is most useful for drawing intelligent conclusions.
But if you’re here for knee-jerk first-impressions, or just first-impressions written by a jerk, well, you’ve stumbled into the right place.
And it can’t be denied: Steven Enoch made an impressive first 2019-20 impression in a 20-minute red-white scrimmage in the KFC Yum Center Saturday afternoon.
Enoch had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting to lead the red team to a 42-32 victory. But forget about the points. With Malik Williams in a boot after foot surgery, Enoch had a sizeable edge on everyone else in the post in strength and experience. The shooting stat is encouraging, as Enoch showed no trouble in finishing on a variety of shots and moves. But those are tougher against more experienced defenders.
The more encouraging things, however, were these: Enoch played all 20 minutes of the scrimmage with no dropoff, meaning that his conditioning is improved. And he dished out two assists showing a nice passing touch. And those high points were in addition to a high-energy performance that also yielded six rebounds, and 2-for-2 shooting from three-point range.
“Before the game, I asked one of the coaches, ‘Man, can Steven go 20 straight minutes?” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “I think he did.”
Mack called Enoch’s night, “mighty impressive.” No arguments here.
“Obviously he was going against a freshman, but his game has gotten a whole lot better,” Mack said. “He has worked really hard in the offseason. He’s improved immensely in the past year. His conditioning is way beyond where it was. He’s gained confidence. He knows he can face the basket. He knows he can play with his back to the basket. I’ve wanted him to play with that high motor since I got here. Now the question is, can he be that consistent guy every night. He has had a tendency to get in foul trouble. But if he plays with that motor, he’s going to be hard to handle. He’s so skilled.”
A few other impressions from the first glance at the Cardinals:
-- It wasn’t a flashy debut for transfer point guard Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble. He did not score, went 0-5 from the field and had 3 assists and two turnovers. However, in the stat that matters most, his team won. A point guard, like a winning quarterback, deserves credit for that.
Darius Perry, meanwhile, had 9 points (on 4-5 shooting), plus five assists and one turnover in a losing effort.
“I don’t think Fresh played very well today,” Mack said. “I thought Darius played pretty well. He had a few lapses, but to go five assists and one turnover for a scrimmage, we need that. I keep telling those guys, Darius has the ability to play on or off the ball. He can be a potent scorer. He just has to know what his role is with a given team. Who is he in the game with? What position is he playing? Who is he playing with? He’s gotten a ton better. His defense has been terrific. He’s hounding the ball. And for the most part he’s making the right decisions. Fresh has to be better. I thought he just didn’t do a whole lot. He’s a better shooter than he showed. We need him to be better than that, to be sure.”
-- Jordan Nwora was his team’s most effective scorer, but one area of emphasis for him – taking care of the ball – wasn’t on display. His three turnovers in one half of basketball showed that area of his game is still a work in progress. In fact, the 12-0 edge in points off turnovers wound up being the difference for the winning side. Nwora finished with 16 points, however, and went 4-4 from three-point range.
“Jordan wasn’t perfect today but I thought he did some really good things,” Mack said. “We’ve got to get him out of the habit of wanting to gamble (defensively). For every one you get, you may give up one or two. But he’s a terrific player. You can see what he can do behind the line. We’ve got more weapons around him. He just has to be patent and make the most of his opportunities.”
-- Dwayne Sutton finished with a sneaky-quiet 16 points and game-best seven rebounds. He went 3 of 5 from the field and got to the line 11 times, making nine of them. He also picked up three steals, but Mack said those were a product of him knowing the offense and what was coming, and anticipating well against freshmen.
“He’s a winner,” Mack said of Sutton. “We need to keep Dwayne fresh. I think last season as he played a lot of minutes, he wore down. We are not going to let him wear down this year.”
-- Louisville as a team went 16 of 19 from the line in the scrimmage, with Sutton leading the way at 9 of 11. Mack said he hopes that trend continues.
“Dwayne is always around the ball and he’s physical and he’s tough,” Mack said. “And Steven is such a load. We want our guys to try to draw fouls, driving to the basket. We were a great free-throw shooting team a year ago, and Steven shooting them so well was a big part of that. He’s a terrific free-throw shooter for a big man, and Malik isn’t far behind him. Jordan and Sam (Williamson) can shoot them and Dwayne. And Ryan (McMahon) and Darius obviously are great free-throw shooters. So we do want to be a team that’s physical and gets to the line.”
-- It wasn’t a splashy introduction for Louisville’s freshmen. Williamson finished with just two points on 1 of 5 shooting and Jae’Lynn Withers didn’t score but had four rebounds. Josh Nickelberry had 5 points on 2 of 5 shooting and Aiden Igiehon didn’t score and had three turnovers in just under 12 minutes.
“They’ve been better at times,” Mack said of the group.
-- Mack nearly was late for tipoff. He praised the number of fans (7,704) who showed up on a Saturday afternoon to watch what basically was a practice.
“The buzz sort of ticked me off because it took me 30 minutes to get here, with the blockage of the highway,” he joked. “It was 12 till one when I pulled into the garage, and the guy said, ‘I thought we might start without you.’”
Louisville starts in earnest on Oct. 29 in an exhibition against Bellarmine at 7 p.m.
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.