Pitino gets running start on 2015-16 Louisville basketball

Fascinating how things appear to have come together during Rick Pitino’s post-season revamping of the University of Louisville basketball program. The coach knew what he needed to do, getting it done in short order.

UofL announced the signing Thursday of Damion Lee, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound fifth-year senior transfer from Drexel University. Lee was the nation’s fourth-leading scorer last season, averaging 21.4 points, topping 20 points in 14 of his 27 games last season, including five performances with 30 or more points.

“Damion fills a big void for us in scoring,” said Pitino. “He’s also an outstanding defensive player and is terrific at the free throw line, which is also a great asset for our team.  He’s an outstanding young man with a great attitude.”

Lee joins Trey Lewis, a 6-foot-2 guard transfer from Cleveland State, who cast his lot with UofL a couple of weeks ago.  Lewis averaged 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season, collecting 30 points twice.

The 2015 recruiting class includes Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, Raymond Spalding and Ryan McMahon.

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Ralph Willard. He's back again.
Ralph Willard. He’s back .

Pitino also has persuaded Ralph Willard, his long time associate and close friend to join him again on the UofL bench. Willard’s 39 years in the industry include 19 years as a head basketball coach.

Willard served as head coach for four seasons at Western Kentucky (1990-94), five years at Pittsburgh (1994-99) and 10 at Holy Cross (1999-2009). He has coached with Pitino on three occasions, with the New York Knicks (1987-89), at Kentucky (1989-90) and at Louisville (2009-10), where he also served a year with the Cardinals as director of basketball operations (2010-11).

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Just what the doctor ordered with so many new faces on the UofL roster. The Cardinals will play as many as six games against national teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic during a week-long trip to Puerto Rico in August.

 The Cardinals will face the Puerto Rico National Team, the Puerto Rico Junior National Team and the Dominican Republic National Team during their Aug. 10-17 visit to Puerto Rico.  The competition coincides with UofL Coach Rick Pitino’s decision to serve as the head coach of the Puerto Rico basketball team in two events this summer.

The international competition will give Pitino a jump-start on the 2015-16 college basketball season. Another run in the making, one can just feel it.

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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.