Pitino wanted Onuaku to get better, Onuaku wants to go NBA

“Onuaku wants to go pro. He had a good combine. I would say he’ll stay in draft.”

The candid assessment on whether Chinanu Onuaku would return to the University of Louisville was coming from Coach Rick Pitino in an interview with Terry Meiners on WHAS Radio on Monday. The coach originally thought Onuku would go through the process, identify some weaknesses and come back and improve his game.

Chinanu Onuaku probably gone.
Chinanu Onuaku probably gone.

Not working out that way for Chinanu. Shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who has paid much attention to his comments during the NBA combine. Typical 19-year-old kid caught up in the excitation of the camps, the accompanying media frenzy, and the possibility of some big bucks.

Despite all the time he spent on the bench last season, Onuaku was making significant progress. He came close to a season double-double average, scoring 9.9 points while retrieving 8.5 rebounds per game. He averaged only 24 minutes per game because he was so foul prone.

Louisville would be a better team with Onuaku, especially if his offensive game improved as much as it did between his freshman and sophomore seasons. That never seemed to carry over to his game on defense, unable to resist those moving picks, and he averaged only 24 minutes per game.

Not that big a loss if Onuaku doesn’t return, however. The expectation of UofL being a national contender shouldn’t change. Especially if his former backups Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman continue to improve, as each of them did last season.  None of them will be in danger of fouling out early every game, that’s for sure.

Onuaku will be drafted primarily because he’s big, gangly and aggressive, some team drafting him on potential, hoping he gets it all together. But don’t expect to see him in any NBA games anytime soon.

Louisville tears before and after win over Georgia Tech

So many tears before and after the game, coaches, players, parents, spouses, girl friends and fans. The final game on the home schedule, time to bid farewell to a special group of players, Senior Night has arrived.

Time to really say goodbye to Damion Lee, Trey Lewis and Dillon Avare. The end of an abbreviated season but one road game away. No NCAA basketball tournament, no ACC tournament, end of the road.

Damion Lee gets a commemorative ball from Rick Pitino for reaching the 2,000 point plateau.
Damion Lee gets a commemorative ball from Rick Pitino after reaching the 2,000 point plateau.

Still much to celebrate for a team that had such low expectations entering the 2015-16 season, so few point-makers returning from last season, picked to finish seventh in the conference, no among the top 45 nationally. The University of Louisville is ranked No. 11 in the country with a 23-7 record and is a half game out of first place in the ACC with a 12-5 conference mark.

Georgia Tech was not impressed, wanting to leave a lasting impression before the 22,043 fans at the KFC Yum! Center, wanting to spoil the farewell party. The lead would change hands eight times before Damion Lee would collect his 2,000th collegiate point on a 3-pointer, giving his team a 37-34 lead, putting UofL ahead to stay.

Louisville would extend its lead to nine points at one point but then went scoreless for five minutes, giving Georgia Tech a second life.

Time for some heroics from Chinanu Onuaku, who could conceivably be in the NBA next season if it’s true the NBA drafts on potential. Stepping to the line with that granny delivery of his, sinking two free throws, capping a night on which he had 17 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Damion Lee would need to sink two more to ice the game, giving UofL the 56-53 win, salvaging a happy ending and sparring everyone in attendance of many more tears had things gone south.

Come back, Nanu

Chinanu Onuaku back in the middle, factor or non-factor?

Chinanu Onuaku
Chinanu Onuaku

Thrust from a stomach disorder into the helter skelter against Virginia over the weekend.  Doesn’t go well.

Zero points. Zero rebounds. Did manage three fouls in 19 minutes.

What’s it’s going to be against North Carolina?

The reborn player with a brand new future who had six straight double-double games? Or the throwback 6-foot-10, 235-pound wanna be who get pushed around like a rag doll?

Future is now.

Quentin Snider answers call, Louisville 77, NC State 72

Quentin Snider didn’t start at guard for the University of Louisville basketball team against North Carolina State. Rick Pitino apparently concluding Snider wasn’t quick enough to keep up with Anthony Barber and his catlike speed.

Snider wouldn’t stay on the bench for long, thanks to an officiating crew that was tagging three UofL guards with two fouls apiece in the first half — getting 32 minutes of playing time for the game. The sophomore guard would make the most of them, turning in his best offensive game as a Cardinal. In the end, it could be argued that it was Barber who couldn’t keep up with him.

Quentin Snider time.
Quentin Snider time at Raleigh.

Time and again, Snider answered the call in the second half, making three of his four 3-pointers. He would also make a pair of free throws, propelling UofL to a 71-55 lead at the 4:28 mark. NC State would somehow manage to reduce the deficit to one point but Snider had already done his damage.

Continue reading “Quentin Snider answers call, Louisville 77, NC State 72”

Pitino homes in on Onuaku after Louisville’s early exit

Rick Pitino is using much of the extra time between the conference and NCAA tournaments trying to get inside Chinanu Onuaku’s head, knowing the end is near for his University of Louisville basketball team if Onuaku continues to fall short in potential and desire.

Despite everything Onuaku has going for him physically, he’s rarely been a factor in big games, little more than a spectator in the midst of the action. Six months of coaching not having much of an impact, still looking lost much of the time. Now the big freshman is in for a crash course with the coach.

Chinanu Onuaku somewhere out there.
Chinanu Onuaku somewhere out there.

Pitino told the Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer that Onuaku hasn’t blocked a shot, gotten an offensive rebound or made a put back in the last two games. He has been quick to remind Onuaku of the deficiencies as well.

“Effort-wise, he’s playing about 60 percent of the game,” said Pitino. “When you’re 6-10, 250 pounds and you’re not a scorer, if you don’t block shots and get offensive rebounds, then what good are you? So I said, ‘If you don’t step up and do this, then we’re going to get knocked out. The onus is on you. I don’t need you to score — I need to get scoring off offensive rebounds, and I need you to block shots.'”

They’ve undoubtedly had this conversation before, but always with a similar outcome. With Mangok Mathiang prone to foul problems, Pitino has little recourse but to start Onuaku in most games, quickly pulling him after  the disappearing acts.

Onuaku doing little more than going through the motions, rarely displaying any emotion. When’s the last time he went to the floor for a loose ball, or emerged from the chaos beneath the basket with the ball? Rarely. Getting lots of minutes, but that’s largely because of the vacuum at the center position this season.

Pitino likes Mathiang’s enthusiasm and effort, he’s bulking up Anas Mahmoud, and says Matz Stockman has real potential.

But Pitino may soon lose patience with Onuaku, and Onuaku may run out of time.