UofL women picked to contend for national title


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?

UofL recruits Cierra Johnson and Kylee Shook.
Recruits Cierra Johnson and Kylee Shook.

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
Sydney Brackemyre

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.

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Louisville football fans party, celebrate spring and Lamar Jackson


Crystal clear, sunny, 75 degrees, perfect day for the University of Louisville spring football game.

Celebrating spring, reuniting with old friends, enjoying no parking restrictions, packing the Green and Bronze lots, parking as close to the tunnel as possible.

24SpringGameMore than 16,000 fans on hand at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. More than ready for some football, the amplifiers going full blast for tailgating, screams piercing the air from the thrill rides, corn dogs being devoured in the carnival area. People of all ages, each seemingly wearing unique Cardinal gear.

The Red Rage Tailgate team was there, James Durst, Josh Stinson and Dave Magee with their converted bus, welcoming dozens of UofL fans. Free Bloody Mary’s, mixed drinks, doughnuts topping a full menu of early morning food. Invited any and all UofL fans to stop by, talk Cardinal sports. These guys live for football and tailgating, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

26SpringGameBesides quenching their thirst for tailgating, fans were eager to see Quarterback Lamar Jackson in action again. All those wide receivers, the running backs, a maturing offensive line, and all the players on defense who passed up the NFL draft to play UofL football another year.

Lamar Jackson would not disappoint, throwing for 519 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Red team to a 73-7 victory over the White team in the annual Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring Game.

Jackson completed 24 of his 29 passes, including an 85-yard strike to James Quick toward the end of the second quarter. Jackson capped the half with a 54-yard score to Jamari Staples, his third touchdown pass of at least 40 yards. Quick, looking better than ever, with five catches for 152 yards.

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith also had five receptions, finishing with 99 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Cole Hikutini, who was on the receiving end of Jackson’s first two touchdown passes, an eight-yarder and a seven-yarder. He logged 75 yards.

On defense, Stacy Thomas and Chucky Williams each had a Red-team best seven tackles, with Thomas recording 2.5 for loss.

A great day to be a UofL football fan. Click on photos below for a sampling.

 

 

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Jurich breaks silence in a big way


The best news in a few weeks for University of Louisville fans is that Tom Jurich remains aggressive and totally committed.

With all the noxious fumes emanating from the basketball scandal and the attacks on President Jim Ramsey, the University of Louisville’s athletic director had been quiet for a while. Publicly, anyway. But he has obviously been busy behind the scenes.

Tom Jurich fully engaged.
Tom Jurich fully engaged.

Jurich broke the silence on Thursday, announcing a new seven-year contract extension for head football coach Bobby Petrino worth $30.625 million and averaging $4.375 million per season. He also updated fans on the $55 million expansion plan for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, reporting that almost $20 million has been raised, suggesting the stadium could possibly be completed in time for the 2018 season.

He obviously recognizes the importance of a successful football program to the university’s overall image, and will continue to be aggressive in ensuring that UofL will be a contender, not only in the Atlantic Coast Conference but on the national scene as well.

UofL’s athletic program has come a long way since the late Harry Jones was able to convince Jurich to come to Louisville in 1997. Were it not for Jones’ persistence — TJ turned him down four or five times — Jurich would still be out west. Colorado State, no doubt, would be in the Power 5 conference, celebrating numerous expansions and titles, instead of the obscurity the Mountain West Conference.

All of the turbulence engulfing UofL the past several months has had to have an effect on Jurich. Two of his closest associates — Jim Ramsey and Rick Pitino — have been under constant attack.  If ever there was a time for him to consider other options, no one would have blamed him if he had chosen to do so. He had to hurt personally by the sex scandal within the basketball program and mystified at the illogical attacks on a school administrator who has done wonders for the university, rivaling what Tom has done within the athletic program.

One also has to believe that he remains as privately supportive of Ramsey as he is publicly of his basketball coach.

Back in February, however, Jurich dismissed speculation that he had any interest in a vacancy at the University of Southern California, one of the most prestigious jobs in college athletics. “People say what they want because I’m from there . . . I’m staying right where I am,” he told a local TV station.

There will always be speculation in sports, but one has every reason to believe Jurich when he says he loves the University of Louisville, calling his current position the best job in college athletics. He has made possible some tremendous highs for the school while experiencing more than his share of extreme lows at the university.

Tom Jurich obviously has even bigger plans for the university.

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Stadium expansion fund raising going well, thanks

The natural target date for the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium has always been September 2019 when the University of Louisville and Notre Dame football team are scheduled to collide at PJCS.

Count on UofL making that happen, possibly a year sooner.Screenshot 2016-04-15 09.39.05

Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich said Thursday that UofL has raised approximately $20 million. That’s $12 million more than was announced on Feb. 4, when UofL announced that $8 million had been pledged. That included corporate sponsorships of $5 million from Pepsi and $3 million from Planet Fitness.

Now comes the grind, shaking the bushes for the additional $30 million to make the expansion of the stadium a reality. Tom, along with his son Mark, who heads up the fund raising effort, are confident the project will happen. They indicated that expansion was likely to begin when they have raised at least half of the money.

UofL has commitments for all 12 of the premium boxes and about half of the 70 exclusive club level suites.

They indicated that the project was inevitable when they had raised at least of the money. Construction could possibly begin at the end of the 2016 season and be completed in time for the 2018 season.

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Freshman powers UofL baseball over Kentucky


Drew Ellis is a freshman, just learning his way around the college baseball world. Surprising that he would get the starting assignment in left field for the University of Louisville baseball team against arch-rival Kentucky.

Drew Ellis wields big bat with five rbi's.
Drew Ellis wields big bat with five rbi’s.

Loves going to BW3 restaurants, consuming those chicken wings by the dozens, listening to country music on the car radio. Baseball is his passion, though, and the Jeffersonville High grad was ranked by the fourth best player in Indiana last year by Perfect Game.

Dan McDonnell had no second thoughts about starting him against UK, confident the youngster could handle the challenge. The UofL coach would not be disappointed, not with Ellis coming through twice with the bases loaded, driving in two runs with a single in the third inning and three with a double in the fifth to lead Louisville to a 9-6 win.

Stil has much to learn, as evidenced by his throwing a ball over home plate allowing UK to score its first run.  A little too excited on that one, hurrying the throw. But what an arm he unveiled on that play, a diamond in the rough, the future.

Meanwhile, Kade McClure was yielding eight hits to the Wildcats eight hits but not when they counted. The big 6-foot-3  left-hander turned in six innings, improving his won-lost record to 8-0 this season.

McClure would need some help, with Kentucky trimming the lead to 7-6 in the eighth inning. Colin Lyman would come through with base hit driving in two runs in the top of the ninth. Reliever Zack Burdi would strike out the last three UK batters with a runner on second to put the game away.

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