A couple of seasons ago, Andre McGee was having respiratory problems. Those are the kinds of physical challenges that tend to hang around. One can’t go lift weights, run sprints, take medicine or let time go by to let them go away. The only option is to endure, tough it out.
McGee has never shown the slightest indication of allowing anything slow him down, driven by his personal goal of “playing my heart out and trying to win a championship.” He loves playing the helter-skelter defense that drives his assignees out of their skulls.
Someone once told him the longer you play, the harder you have to work. He has taken the advice to heart, making the most of every second on the court. The California native says he chose to play at the University of Louisville because “Louisville is the best college sports town in the country, hands down, and Coach Pitino is the best coach in college. I would have been dumb to go anywhere else.”
Georgetown University has its back against the wall. Unless the Hoyas win out in the regular season, they will be forced to play five games in five days if they hope to win a Big East Tournament titleÂ and an NCAA Tournament bid.
When cornered, instincts run to one of two options: Fight, or cover and duck. Louisville needs to force the Hoyas into a duck and cover scenario early in this game. Making it happen on Georgetown’s court could be a difficult assignment in tonight’s encounter. The Cards have been a second half team lately.Â A DePaul-like first half domination would come in handy.
*Â Â Â *Â Â *
Andre McGee’s second half shutdown of Cincinnati junior guard Deonta Vaughn was a thing of beauty. No points in the second half, after torching the Cards with three bombers from three-point distance. One can speculate on which guard combinations are the most effective for the Cardinals but the revolving backcourt door is fine, as long as as the right ones are out there at the right time.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Nice to see the late Ed Jucker’s name on the floor in the Fifth/Third Arena. Jucker was the Cincinnati coach during the Bearcats’ great years in early 1960’s when they won two NCAA titles. I had anÂ opportunity to chat with him during a Conference USA tournament at Freedom Hall. He was doing some NBA scouting and wasn’t in great health bit you could see the fire and passion when he talked about Oscar Robertson and those magical Bearcat years. Jucker also revealed that he was responsible for recruiting Dodger great Sandy Koufax to UC. Jucker died in 2002 from prostate cancer.
If you were among those who rediscovered their love for baseball when U of L went to Omaha and the College World Series in 2007, you don’t have to wait long.
Believe it or not, the college baseball season officially begins today, with the University of Louisville squaring off against the University of FloridaÂ in the first of a three-game set at Gainesville. The series could be pivotalÂ in the chase for NCAA honors, with Louisville ranked No. 8 and Florida No. 11 in pre-season polls by Rivals.com.
Justin Marks, a pre-season All America pick, will be on the mound for Louisville. The lefthanded Big East pitcher of the year had a 9-2 won-lost record with a 2.37 earned run average last season. He will face Patrick Keating, a senior righthander who had an 8-1 record and a 4.62 ERA.
The journey has arrived at a crossroads. One road leads in the direction of a possible Final Four appearance, the other to still another detour on the return to prominence.
When your team has played in the NCAA basketball tournament 34 times, made the semifinals eight times, and won the national championship twice, anything less than a Final Four appearance is frustrating.
The University of Louisvilleâ€™s fortunes this season have run the gamut â€“ from a lofty pre-season ranking of No. 3 in the national polls to a fall from the top 20 after shocking losses to Western Kentucky and Nevada-Las Vegas, followed by an amazing 10-game winning streak with wins over two top 10 teams, only to lose two of the last four games.
This team has shown flashes of making something special happen. But this same group of players has also been plagued by ongoing issues that would have to be resolved quickly to make the special possible. They have performed as spectacularly at times as they have played poorly.
Six more games. Two more weeks in the regular season. So close but yet so far, and the road ahead is anything but predictable.
*Â Â *Â Â *
Stewart Ijames Out â€“ Rivals is reporting the sophomore outfielder Stewart Ijames will miss the entire 2009 baseball season, due to a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder (his throwing arm).Â
As a freshman last season, Ijames batted .351 with eight homers and 39 RBIs. He also recorded 11 doubles, two triples and 98 total bases. Additionally, he had a .583 slugging percentage and a .401 on-base percentage.
“Stewart has had trouble with that arm since the summer after his high school career ended and it also bothered him last season,” Coach Dan McDonnell told Rivals.com. “In terms of surgery, it’s not necessarily a given that an outfielder with this injury must have surgery, but we’re still exploring our options.”
Ijames will receive a medical redshirt this season and will have three years to play.
Donâ€™t look now but the University of Louisville baseball team opens the 2009 season this Friday with the first game of a three-game series against the University of Florida in Gainesville.
They will be led by senior third baseman Chris Dominguez, who today was selected Preseason First Team All America by Baseball America and Rivals.com. The good-natured native of Miami paced the Cards to 41-21 won-lost record last season, batting .365 with a team-leading 21 home runs, 13 doubles and 75 runs batted in.
Dominguez turned down a offer to play professional baseball last summer after being drafted by the Colorado Rockies. It marked the first time since 2003 that a college player drafted in the fifth round had not signed. He told Baseball America:
“I have no regrets. I don’t live in the past about the decisions I make. Maybe I didn’t get drafted as high as I would’ve liked to. But things happen for a reason …Â To have a chance to go back to the College World Series, I think it’s worked out for the better.”
The team returns for its first home game on the 2009 schedule on Wednesday, Feb. 25th against Eastern Kentucky University at Jim Patterson Stadium at 2 p.m.