Off And Running

UL_Cardinal_head_logo David Padgett sitting on the bench with two fouls for three-quarters of the first half, no way Louisville survives. That might have been the way it went 12 games ago but U of L was focused tonight, hitting threes like they came naturally, canning 12 of 24 attempts while holding a team that made its living on threes to only four of 12.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJerry Smith is no longer in a shooting slump — not that he ever was, according to Pitino — hitting four of eight of them, overcoming a 2 for 19 mishmash in three previous games.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoTerrence Williams setting the tone, hitting two three pointers early to show this was not business as usual. Handing out eight assists and nine rebounds. Grinning from ear to ear.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDerrick Caracter looking hungry, hard to stop when he starts that one-of-a-kind move. Getting the hang of staying out of foul trouble.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoEarl Clark continuing his late season tear, scoring a team high 15 points, adding seven rebounds.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJuan Palacios adding 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Elder statesman, senior leadership.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoAndre McGee, Edgar Sosa, and Preston Knowles combining for four assists and three three-pointers.’

UL_Cardinal_head_logoStuart Miller getting in an NCAA tournament game.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoU of L fans could get used to this very quickly.

Getting The Act Together

The dream scenario is that everything finally comes together, youth becomes maturity, potential becomes reality. Not enough to play two good games the first week. Growth has to be real, not adrenaline induced but knowledge and experience-based and extended over three weeks.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDavid Padgett playing more than eight-minute stretches, sky hooks connecting both sides of the basket. Padgett says he is 100% healthy; proving it by hanging in there for a couple extra minutes every game.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJerry Smith hitting three-point shots. Rick Pitino says Smith is not in a shooting slump. Smith proving it.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoTerrence Williams doing what he does best, passing and dunking, not being spectacular, just reliable and consistent.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoEarl Clark demanding more of himself and others; stops being so humble, getting hungry and angry around the basket.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoEdgar Sosa reverting to being the player who scored 30 points in the second round last year, worrying more about the score than his personal performance.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDerrick Caracter demanding more of himself, being alert on each end of the floor, making it difficult for Pitino to pull him.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoAndre McGee foregoing the layups, drilling the threes.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoPreston Knowles continuing to be the best defender, ratcheting up the shooting part of his game.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJuan Palacios playing like a senior possessed, exuding and inspiring confidence.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoA team hitting 35% of its three-point attempts, 70% of its free throws, and showing the same kind of intensity exhibited during February.

No ifs, ands or buts this time of year. No amateur hours, no head hanging, no gallivanting around between games. Time to do what Pitino has preached. Stand up, move out of the pew, get out there and convert the doubters.

Checking In On Spring Practice

With the continuing rain, the first session of spring football practice was moved to the Traeger Center, that marvelous facility Tom Jurich made possible with contributions from the Traeger family and a number of other very generous U of L fans.

Some first day impressions:

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJames Bryant, the 6-3, 257-pound linebacker transfer from Miami, impresses right away. Intercepted a pass, ran it to the end zone. He’s a gifted athlete, knows exactly what to do with an interception. Don’t ever get in his way.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJose Chichester, the 6-8, 223-pound wide receiver, is for real. Plays with confidence, has great hands and speed.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJajuan Spillman back with the team, laughing, happy to be contending again; he’s endured the suspension, walked the straight and narrow, ready to resume where he left off.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDidn’t see Brock Bolen with the backs; either in class or just missed him.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDefensive tackle Adrian Grady looks healthy again, all business today. Quiet guy, but will make some noise next season.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJames McKinney, the Michigan transfer from Louisville Central, was built to be a defensive football player, resembles a Brinks truck.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoDefensive Line Coach Ken Delgado pays close attention to detail, a real teacher, makes learning contagious.

UL_Cardinal_head_logoJeff Brohm, as offensive coordinator, is where he needs to be. Seems to be an inordinate amount of talent at quarterback, running back and wide receivers, still more coming in with the freshman class.

Spring Football, Fresh Start

All the whining about last year’s disappointing football season finally settled down at about the same time University of Louisville fans turned their full attention to basketball. For football coach Steve Kragthorpe, the timing couldn’t have been better. He badly needed to do a little housecleaning, say goodbye to some NFL hopefuls, attract some capable assistant coaches, and complete his first full recruiting class.

Kragthorpe gathers his troops together for the first time officially since last season when spring drills begin Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. New beginning: reason for optimism. Coaching transitions, more often than not, are accompanied by setbacks and adjustments to new systems. Takes time, and Kragthorpe will take advantage.

His first season at U of L was certainly full of ups-and-downs. Despite a couple of early losses, the Cardinals defeated 15th-ranked Cincinnati last season, 28-24, at Nippert Stadium for Kragthorpe’s first signature win, and battled back from a 38-24 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Rutgers, 41-38, in the regular-season finale.

There will definitely be tons of speed on the field with players like Bilal Powell, Jajuan Spillman, Trent Guy and Victor Anderson on the offensive side. It will be interesting to see the competition between Hunter Cantwell, Tyler Wolfe and Matt Simms for the quarterback position. The transition of people like Sergio Spencer and Brandon Health to defense will get a lot of attention, as will transfers James Bryant, from Miami, and James McKinney, from Michigan.

Expectations won’t be through the roof this season as they were last year. One would hope, however, that the enthusiasm that prompted fans to rush the field after the win over Rutgers carries over into preparations for the 2008 season. The fans became permanently invested in U of L football when the former coach took the Cards to the Orange Bowl and their first BCS victory ever. They are eagerly hoping to see it happen again, the sooner the better.

Welcome back, football.