Big men of little consequence for Louisville basketball

So many big men, probably the most ever on a University of Louisville basketball roster. They make quite an impression in airport concourses. But that’s where the positive impact ends.

So little impact in games against good teams, not much better against the others.

Chinanu Onuaku lacking focus.
Chinanu Onuaku lacking focus.

Rick Pitino can choose from 6-foot-10 Chinanu Onuaku, 6-foot-10 Magok Mathiang, 7-foot Anas Mahmoud and 7-foot Matz Stockman at the center spot. He could also give 6-foot-9 Jaylen Johnson a shot at the position.

However, Onuaku has problems staying focused, Mathian is awkward and Mahmoud is so skinny. Stockman looks the part but is still learning Pitino speak and basketball.

Pitino tried three of them — Mathiang, Onuaku and Mahmoud — in the 63-52 loss to Duke on Saturday. The cumulative total: seven points, 14 rebounds, one block and a steal.

Mathiang had three points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Onuku had four points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. Mahmoud had a rebound in the stat column but he was only in for less than two minutes.

Against a smaller Wake Forest lineup, the results were even less promising. Mahmoud started but had zero points and just three rebounds in 17 minutes.  Mathiang fouled out in just 12 minutes, going scoreless and collecting four rebounds. Onuaku played seven minutes and didn’t collect a point or rebound while garnering three fouls.

Mathiang did have 11 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes against Virginia Tech but Pitino discounted it because of the competition. Onuaku, Mahmoud and Stockman collectively added four rebounds but no points.

Pitino has to decide soon who he wants to play, stick with him, developing him. That’s what he did with Gorgui Dieng during his formative seasons. He said at one point last season that Mathiang was ahead of Gorgui during his freshman year. Onuaku isn’t seeing the floor much, playing a total of seven minutes in the last two games. Mahmoud saw 11 minutes in them.

Right now their teammates have little confidence in any of them. Nor does their coach seem to trust them.

That’s going to have to change quickly if UofL is to get better and make one of those classic February runs this season. A tall order for the great motivator.

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Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.