Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.
So how did every University of Louisville fan’s favorite NBA player fare during his third season with Minnesota Timberwolves?
That would be Gorgui Dieng, of course.
Dieng, who left UofL following the 2013 NCAA championship, continued to improve. He posted his best numbers thus far, playing in all 82 games for Minnesota, in 39 of them as a starter. He averaged 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Britt Robson, who covers the Timberwolves for MinnPost.com, wrote, “He is exceptionally bright, having passed his SAT test six months after learning English with a score that was 400 points above the requirement needed to attend college. And he is exceptionally competitive.”
“What stood out immediately was that he played hard and made every effort to guard his man,” remembers Wolves general manager Milt Newton, who first saw Dieng as a teenager at the Basketball Without Borders clinic in South Africa a few years ago. Today, Newton says, “I think he competes as hard as anybody in the league.”
Despite playing through hip problems, Dieng finished strong in a 144-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the final game. He turned in 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks while hitting seven-for-eight from the field, including two-of-two behind the 3-point line. His best overall game came in a 112-105 win over the Chicago Bulls in early February. He finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a block.
Unfortunately, Minnesota wound up with a 29-53 won-lost record, putting them in the basement of the Northwest Division of the NBA’s Western Conference.
The Timberwolves fired coach Sam Mitchell following the season. This week they announced the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, who coached the Chicago Bulls for five seasons, as President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach.
Gorgui is currently reported to be deciding whether to play this summer for the Senegal national team in a bid for the Olympics or taking some time off to allow his ailing hip to recover.
Jude Schimmel is back in the game. For how long is anybody’s guess.
She has been invited to participate in pre-season training camp by the Dallas Wings, a Women’s National Basketball Association franchise.
Schimmel, who played at the University of Louisville from 2011 through 2014, should know pretty soon whether she makes the squad. The Wings are scheduled to open the 2016 WNBA season on May 14th against the Indiana Fever in Indianapolis.
She faces a major challenge. The Wings are already loaded at guard with Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor) returning from the Tulsa Shock. The franchise, which finished third in the Western Division last season, was renamed and moved to Dallas during the off season.
Quite a compliment to be invited for Jude, one of the most popular players to ever wear a UofL uniform. She contributed 711 points, 392 assists and 211 steals during her college career. Her senior class was the the winningest in UofL women’s basketball history with a 112-31 won-lost record.
Jude stands only 5 feet, 6 inches. Always small, even in high school and college, she played fearlessly, always in the midst of the rough and tumble. Those breakaway layups, so many of tehm, among the lasting memories of her days at UofL.
The odds of her making a WNBA roster are considered remote. But, hey, she’s there, and Jude has always made the most of opportunities.
Corey Ray is the cream of the college position player crop. That’s according to D1Baseball.com, a premier site for college baseball.
“The Louisville star has done everything scouts have asked from, and has shown improvements in just about every facet of his game so far this spring,” writes analyst Frankie Piliere. “And scouts are fully taking notice, particularly in recent weeks.”
Coming out of high school, however, Ray didn’t want to play college baseball. He wanted to go straight to professional baseball after being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the thirty-third round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2013.
Fortunately for the University of Louisville, Corey Ray, Sr. was able to talk his son out of signing any papers, convincing him to play college baseball, getting better while obtaining a degree in the process.
“My dad humbled me a little bit and told me I wasn’t ready. He saw something in me that I didn’t see. He saw that if went to college for a few years and got better that I could eventually be an elite player.” That’s what the UofL junior told The3rdManIn, a popular baseball blogging site a while back.
Even better that Ray would be tutored by Dan McDonnell, a coach who knows Ray is gone after this season. McDonnell has made Ray the leadoff hitter while playing him at all three outfield positions to showcase his abilities.
Ranked among the top MLB prospects in the nation this season, Ray is hitting .333 with 11 home runs, 46 runs batted in, 31 stolen bases, 13 doubles and 40 runs scored. The Chicago native ranks second nationally in stolen bases, fifth in total bases (102), 14th in home runs and 15th in RBI while hitting in the leadoff spot in all 37 games for Louisville.
According to a Chicago Tribune story, his dad works for Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation and would wake up his son before dawn Saturday mornings as he got ready for work driving a street sweeper, sending him to run a hill near their former Princeton Park home. Ray played in White Sox’s Amateur City Elite youth baseball program.
Even if he gets drafted this season, Ray may still be playing baseball in Louisville for a few more seasons. The Cincinnati Reds have the No. 2 pick in the draft this year, and is the parent club of the Louisville Bats.
Nothing better than beating Kentucky for a fifth straight time, as has occurred in both baseball and football.
Devin Hairston’s hot bat made the latest win happen for the University of Louisville baseball team with a high bouncer over second base in the bottom of the ninth, sending Colin Lyman home for a 7-6 win over UK.
Witnessed by crowd of 4,642 at Jim Patterson Stadium on Tuesday, most of them still on hand for the heroics and celebration at game’s end.
Hairston continues an almost unbelievable hitting surge, raising his batting average to .388 for the season while driving in 31 runs and scoring 40 runs himself. A year ago he was struggling at the plate, batting eighth in the lineup. He was the cleanup hitter on Tuesday, reaching base three times on singles.
In his last 16 games, Hairston is hitting .400 with a home run, with four doubles, 17 RBI and 27 runs scored.
The win was extra special for Louisville right-hander Anthony Kidston who had not won a game in two seasons. During his first two seasons, he was 14-1, winning nine games during his sophomore year. Beating the arch-rival cures a lot of ailments. Maybe just what Kidston needed after struggling mightily with his control last season.
Righthander Kade McClure, facing the Wildcats for the second time in a week, lasted six innings, giving up five runs and five hits.
Corey Ray loomed large again for the Cardinals, connecting in 2-for-5 at-bat, including his 11th home run of the season, adouble and driving in two runs. His 22nd career home run highlighted a three-run seventh inning as Louisville charged back from a 5-1 deficit.
That close. So near, yet so far away.
Jeff Walz has been there twice before, the championship game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Only to see his University of Louisville women’s basketball team overpowered, out-quicked and dismembered by UConn. Not even close at the half in either game.
The good news for Walz and everybody else next season is that UConn will lose Brianna Stewart and two other All-Americans from a program that won four straight championships. The sobering news, however, is Geno Auriemma, who has won the tournament 11 times, will probably be back with a strong support cast. No way UConn could continue its dominance of the women’s game. Or is there?
ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme thinks not. He’s picking UofL to be the No. 2 team in the nation next season, behind only Notre Dame, while ahead of South Carolina, UConn, Baylor, Texas, Maryland, Ohio State, UCLA and Stanford. Creme may given the Irish the nod but they weren’t that much better than UofL this season, claiming a five-point win only after Myisha Hines-Allen fouled out in the last three minutes.
UofL will return 10 players from a team that posted a 26-8 won-lost record, including Hines-Allen, Mariya Moore and Asia Durr. Joining the squad is an all-star recruiting class that include five-star post players Ciera Johnson and Kyle Shook, five-star guard Sydney Zambrotta, four-star forward Jazmine Jones and three-star forward Bionca Dunham.
Shook, a 6-foot-5 recruit from Colorado Springs, averaged 29.6 points and 15.0 rebounds to go along with 4.9 blocks per game. Johnson, a 6-foot-4 standout from Texas, averaged 14.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
Walz may be in a position to add another McDonald’s All-American in 6-foot-3 Chatrice White, who has indicated she will transfer to another school from Illinois. White, who averaged 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, is reportedly visiting UofL this week. Oh, and she played on a USA U-19 team that included Walz and Moore last summer.
The UofL women experienced some significant growing pains this past season after losing four of their first five games, before winning 16 straight games. They ended on a sour note, however, losing two of the last three outings. They will not be taking winning for granted next time around.
With a year of hard knocks behind them, the UofL women should be force with which to be reckoned during the 2016-17 season. Tons of experience to go with an abundance of size, speed and shooters, and a coach who knows exactly where he wants them to be in the final game. He wants them to cut down the net next time, however.
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Sydney Brackemyre, always a positive presence on the bench, will be transferring. She was never able to contribute after re-injuring a knee and undergoing two operations during two seasons at UofL.
“Unfortunately, her knee injuries have not allowed her to compete at this level,” said Walz. “I really admire the positive attitude she brought to the gym each day, and I am hopeful she can find a program, where she can truly flourish.”
She’s the second player to transfer, joining Taja Cole, seeking more playing time elsewhere.