Walz takes home the gold for USA women’s basketball

FIBA Site Screen Shot

Jeff Walz continues his winning ways, leading the USA to gold in Mexico City.

Made it look easy they did, Jeff Walz and his United States basketball team in winning the International Basketball Federation’s world championship for women under 18 in Mexico City.

Walz, the University of Louisville women’s basketball coach, guided the USA team to the gold medal with an 84-60 win over Canada on Tuesday.  His teams are undefeated with a 9-0 record, including three wins in a Tokyo tournament last year.

UofL is recruiting two players on the team for the 2019 class. Aijah Blackwell, a six-foot guard from Whitfield School in Berkeley, Missouri, had eight points and four rebounds in the championship game. Maori Davenport, a 6-foot-4 forward from Henderson, Alabama, had seven points and six rebounds.  

The USA team averaged 93.2 per game, winning by an average of 47.5 points per outing, out-rebounding the opposition by 29.5 rebounds, while allowing 15 fewer points on average than any other team.

Game by game:

USA 87, Argentina 42
USA 115, Chile 39
USA 103, Puerto Rico 59
USA 87, El Salvador 27
USA 83, Columbia 47
USA 84, Canada 60 (Championship)

A well-rounded offensive attack, with nine players averaging between seven and 10 points per game. “I thought the players did an outstanding job of looking for each other, instead of looking to make things happen for themselves,” Walz said. “They were trying to get their teammates involved.”

Take a bow, coach. You earned it.

A musical ode to the Pizza Man and fall from grace

Now a song has been written about poor ol’ John Schnatter, the pizza man. Rapidly becoming a cartoon caricature of the kind of person everyone loves to hate. Happy ending not possible.

John Schnatter and his wife, Annette, had courtside seats for the University of Louisville-Florida State basketball game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The rapid decline of Schnatter from a fabulously successful businessman to an angry and frustrated untouchable is chronicled by Don R. Mueller, PhD, a former physics professor and New York blogger recently profiled in The New York Times.

The blows just keep coming for the disgraced pizza icon. He has a way of offending someone every time he opens his mouth. A casualty of the cultural wars, unable to negotiate the slippery slopes of the politically correct landscape, antagonizing the people who made him filthy rich.

Don Mueller, a New York physicist, chronicled Papa John’s decline in song on YouTube

Always looking for a fight it seems. No longer welcome at Cardinal Stadium or the University of Louisville  campus. The last Papa John’s signs were trucked away from the stadium last week. He’s not even wanted at the corporate headquarters of the company on Papa John’s Boulevard in Louisville.

The Pizza Man discovering the hard way that money can buy only so much love. He has only himself to blame.

Jaire Alexander gives Green Bay needed boost at cornerback

Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton

Fans of opposing National Football League teams can’t be blamed if they  circle the date for games against the Green Bay Packers on their calendars. Same for casual football fans looking for decent games on Sunday afternoons. The Packers are always going to be strong and in the thick of the Super Bowl chase.

University of Louisville fans will have one more special reason to follow the Packers’ fortunes this season. Namely Jaire Alexander, competing for a starting position at cornerback in the rookie year of his professional career.  The Packers traded selections with the Seattle Seahawks to make  Alexander 18th overall pick, the second cornerback  off the board.

Jaire Alexander

When he was well, Alexander was one of the elite-level cornerbacks of this class. Injured in Louisville’s opening game last season, missing six games with a knee injury. UofL was a different team when he returned, winning four of its last five regular season games, including a second straight victory over Florida State.

The Packers haven’t had the best history with first-round cornerbacks, but there’s an aura around Alexander and an influx of optimism. It’s still early but reports from the Packer camp indicate that Alexander is seriously quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ passing accuracy in pre-season workouts.

Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in week six and played in only seven games last season, appears to have fully recovered. Pretty potent combination with Rodgers quarterbacking the offense and Alexander running free in the defensive backfield. According to Betway, the Packers are 13/2 favorites to win the NFC, and will give defending Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles all they can handle.

Expect Jaire Alexander to play a major role in Green Bay’s return to prominence.

Catching up on 2018 college football rule changes

Finally, there’s hope that still another long hot summer may be nearing an end. Summer camp for University of Louisville football getting underway next week.  Time to get familiar with the new rule changes in effect during the 2018 season.

Kickoff: Players will able to fair catch the football for a fair catch anywhere between the 25-yard line and the back of the end zone. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line. The change will detract from one of the more exciting parts of the game. It is intended to reduce the number of injuries on kickoff returns. Punt returns can’t be far behind.

— Blocking: The offense will not be allowed to block below the waist more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Other than the interior linemen, all blocks below the waist must be from the front. The change introduces the potential for more judgemental and controversial calls.

Play Clock:  After touchdowns, the play clock will be set at 40 seconds to expedite the extra point or two-point conversion attempt. Following a kickoff, the play clock will also be set to 40 seconds to restart play more quickly.

— Leaping Over Players: Defenders will not be able to leap over opposing players on field goals or extra points. The rule applied only to punts last season. Presumably because defensive players have an edge over offensive blockers in crouching positions.

— Replay Reviews:  Reviews of controversial or challenged calls may be conducted by officials at locations other than the stadium in which the game is played. Such as at conference office in another location. Expect this change to result in more delays in the game in many instances.

–Last Minute of the Half: A 10-second runoff when  an instant replay overturns the ruling on the field inside of one minute in either half, and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock. A critical period during the game, requiring quick thinking for officials.

— Field Goal Penalties:  On successful field goals, penalty enforcement will be the same as on made extra points, with penalties implemented on the ensuing kickoff.  Long overdue.

New life for Louisville offense after Lamar Jackson

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Expect the University of Louisville football team to have a better offense this season without Lamar Jackson, winner of the Heisman Trophy and the player who rewrote the record books in three seasons at UofL.

That’s coming from Coach Bobby Petrino who, while he would never acknowledge it, had limited options on offense, especially the past two years.  It was no secret that the offense revolved heavily around the abilities of one player. 

It was Lamar Jackson this, Lamar Jackson that, this way, that way, through the air, on the ground. Not much imagination on offense, not much guesswork on defense. Everybody knew what was coming. Lamar Jackson all the time.

The UofL offense bore little resemblance to Bobby Petrino’s offenses  prior to the Lamar Jackson era.  Probably for a couple of reasons. Jackson may have never really mastered Petrino’s playbook. Jackson even admitted he didn’t know the plays after his freshman year. He was still setting offensive records at a sizzling pace so Petrino had little option but to turn Jackson loose.

Jackson was far from perfect at crunch time. As good as he was, Jackson often had trouble maintaining  possession, fumbling an inordinate number of times and giving up interceptions. Between the turnovers, though, he was extraordinarily gifted.

“I expect us to be better,” said Petrino, during the ACC gathering in Charlotte this week. “I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game. I really like our receiving corps. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Petrino also believes the running backs will be more of a factor again. “The running backs are a good group” he said. “Tre Smith had a great spring. He really showed his ability to run between the tackles and get yards after contact and protect the quarterback.

“Dae Williams and Colin Wilson are two big physical guys, and Colin has some special skills as far as his movement in and out of holes. Tobias Little is a guy that played fullback for us last year, and then we started giving him the football, and he’s a 245-pound guy that can play tailback and catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Jawon Pass

Watch for UofL to look more like the typical Petrino team during the upcoming season, with a more traditional quarterback in Jawon Pass. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was a consensus four-star prospect out of Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia.

A player who will rely as much on the system as his own talents to manage the offense. “He’s a natural leader,” said Petrino. “When he stepped on campus, you could see that. He’s very, very competitive.”

More talent all around is what Petrino is saying. More of a multi-dimensional approach with more of the right people involved at all the key positions.

Lamar Jackson was an incredible athlete, entertaining and fun to watch, and he will be missed. Back to the basics now, spreading the wealth around, with more of a team approach, hopefully making Louisville more competitive in the immediate future.