Rick Pitino is determined to bring out the best in Wayne Blackshear, declaring that the sole returning senior will be the captain of the 2014-15 University of Louisville basketball team.
That’s Pitino doing his motivational thing again, taking extraordinary measures to get into a young man’s head, adding the burden of leadership to a role player, calculating that Blackshear will respond in a positive way, and live up to the expectations that eluded him during his first three seasons.
Reminiscent of his declaring Larry O’Bannon a team captain going into his senior year. The following season he would become one of the go-to shooters, improving his field goal percentage from 38% to 49% and his scoring from 10.3 to 15.2 points per game. He was a pivotal player on UofL’s surprising Final Four team that year.
Pitino called Blackshear out during his post-season press conference, saying Blackshear was the only player in the past four years who hasn’t had substantial improvement.
“If you ask me to rate him as a person on a 10-point scale, I’d give him an 11,” he said. “But I told Wayne that you reap what you sow in this game. He’ll show up for practice and he’ll give me 100%.
“I told him, son, that’s not what you do here. The Luke Hancocks, the Russ Smiths, the Gorgui Diengs, they get in early, they stay late, they come in after, they come in at night time, and you’re not doing that. We have to turn over a whole new leaf. From this point on, I want you to text me every single day what you put into each day.
“For his own sake, he has to wake up and understand that the world will pass him by if he doesn’t live in that gym. He’a a great kid and he deserves a great senior year … I’m hoping Wayne has the same kind of senior year that Larry O’Bannon had.”
A game day feel to this year’s University of Louisville football spring game, the Green Lot already two-thirds full two hours before kickoff, many fans more than ready to tailgate again, hyped up, eager to experience Bobby Petrino-style football again.
An estimated 27,500 of them showing up at Papa John’s Cardinals stadium expecting an explosive offensive display and they wouldn’t be disappointed. Too many to count wearing T-shirts proclaiming, “Bobby is Back!” Just couldn’t wait for the fireworks to begin.
They weren’t alone, with many former UofL football players returning for the game, proclaiming how exciting they were about the return of an offensive genius at the helm. Among them Doug Beaumont, a Petrino recruit, who had to wait until his senior season to score a touchdown.
They wouldn’t have to wait long, quarterback Will Gardner connecting with wide receiver James Quick on a 62-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. Also answering a couple of questions about a couple of players who saw limited action last season.
Yes, Gardner can pass and, oh my, Quick looked as good as he looked in high school. Gardner completed 32 of 37 pass attempts for 542 yards and four touchdowns. Quick would make five catches, good for 152 yards.
Any questions about Michael Dyer were answered, too. The second year transfer with the Clydesdale thighs from Auburn is going to be a work horse in the Petrino system. Petrino liked him so much he used him on both teams, Dyer rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns in 10 carries for the Red team, and 51 yards on four carries and still another touchdown for the Red team. He was also good for 25 yards on a pass.
L. J. Scott, an impressive freshman running back who never stops churning, saw action on both the starting and second teams, rushing for a total of 128 yards in 19 carries and a touchdown. He may be a backup but he’s going to see a lot of action in Petrino’s high-scoring offense.
Dominique Brown, who has nothing to prove to Petrino or anybody else, was used sparingly, with 31 yards in six carries and a touchdown. Petrino know what he has in Dominique, wanting to see more of Dyer and Scott, we suspect.
DeVanta Parker picking up where he left off, with 10 receptions for 109 yards. Eli Rogers with six catches for 109 yards. But Gerald Christian with eight receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Plenty of targets to go around for Will Gardner.
The grind-it-out, run-out-the-clock, protect-the-lead, wake-me-when-it’s-over approach of the past four seasons has departed for Texas. The scoreboard is going to get a workout in 2015.
Good to be home again after five long days in Las Vegas.
Limited gambling and frills, no big shows. Didn’t have time, working an annual convention, 12 to 14 hours a day. On the last night I did donate fifty bucks to the slot machines in less than 20 minutes.
Did manage to squeeze in a visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop of the History Channel. To our disappointment, none of the pawn stars — the Old Man (Richard), Rick, Corey and Chumley — were there. They were out of town all week. We did see Willie Mays’ old San Francisco Giants uniform on display in the shop.
Nice to see several University of Louisville fans while there. They were all apprehensive on Monday, very happy on Tuesday following the University of Kentucky’s loss to UConn in the NCAA tournament’s championship game. I did see the last two minutes of the game, greatly relieved afterwards.
There were small groups of people wearing UK sweatshirts around town Sunday and Monday. No traces of any Big Blue the rest of the week.
We knew it all along. Jude Schimmel has been named to Glamour Magazine’s top 10 College Women, a winner on and off the court for the University of Louisville basketball team. Congratulations, Jude. We’ll treasure one more year. Read about her selection here.
So I was wrong. No tears in sight.
All’s well that ends well: UConn 60, Kentucky 54.
Unbelievable, the inconceivable run was for real. Implausible it seemed, unimaginable, improbable, unthinkable, mind-boggling.
UConn in the NCAA winner’s circle, cutting the nets, lifting the trophies. Kentucky the runner up, having come together when it counted, coming close, but falling short.
Congratulations to the Huskies, congratulations to the American Athletic Conference, congratulations to all underdogs everywhere.
The Huskies adding to their list of national championships: 1999, 2004, 2011 and, now, 2014.
The University of Louisville basketball program proudly passes the championship mantle to University of Connecticut. Last team standing in 2014.