Wayne Blackshear Likes Louisville

One more gift under that Christmas tree, Louisville fans.

Wayne Blackshear, the top player in the Illinois class of 2011, chose the holiday to convey his verbal commitment to join the University of Louisville basketball program. He picked U of L over Kansas, Texas, Illinois, Michigan State and DePaul.

The 6-foot-6 forward from Chicago is rated as a five-star recruit by Scout.com and the 11th best player in the class.

Earlier this month, Blackshear scored 29 points, added nine rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists in a win over Notre Dame, prompting these accolades from a Chicago Sun-Times writer:

“Blackshear scored every way imaginable: in transition, popping three-pointers on the break and using his speed and athleticism to attack the rim … Blackshear was otherworldly in the first half (with 18 points). He scored twice on amazing spin moves and literally leapt over a Dons’ defensive player in scoring on a lay up.”

Just last Monday, Blackshear scored 19 of his 42 points during a 37-11 third-quarter run to lead his undefeated Morgan Park team (10-0) to a 77-47 win over Uplift.

There may be a few more surprises to come. Blackshear is close friends with a couple of other players, Mike Shaw and Marquis Teague, who also happen to be on Rick Pitino’s wish list.

Battle Of The Bluegrass, Part 1

by Sonja Sykes

The University of Louisville women’s basketball team travels to Memorial Coliseum in Lexington Sunday for a 1 p.m. tip against the Kentucky Lady Kats. The game will be shown on Fox Sports South (Insight 70).

Kentucky (9-0) is off to it best start in school history. All SEC forward Victoria Dunlap will be a game-time decision for coach Matthew Mitchell because of a concussion. She did not play in UK’s latest win over Florida A&M. Guards Rebecca Gray, Carly Morrow and Adia Mathies have led the charge lately for the defensive minded Cats.

UofL (6-4) will need improved play from its point guard rotation. Freshmen Rachel Story, Nikki Burton and Shelby Harper have shared time with sophomore Becky Burke running the Cards offense.

Louisville has won the last five games in the series, defeating UK by 15 last year in Freedom Hall and 15 two years ago in Rupp Arena.

The game is a “Pack the House” promotion for UK and is sold out. Four buses of Cardinal fans, sponsored by the FastBreak club will make the journey from Louisville to Lexington to give the Cards at least a small presence at the game.

I’ll have a full recap on the game, atmosphere and trip when I return later tonight.

Louisville Basketball Could Use Some Cheer

by Paul Sykes

We’ve heard all the rants, rage and tirades about the University of Louisville basketball team’s lack of performance. Certainly, this isn’t what Cardinal fans have come to expect. But, with the unparalleled success this season of our neighbors to the east, the gasoline is out and the flames are being fanned.

Obviously, three losses this early in the season isn’t good. Add another four to six losses in the Big East and dangerous matchups against Kentucky and Western Kentucky and you have a Louisville team that is on the fence for the NCAA tournament.

Even in the lean years, the Big Blue crazies expect the best for themselves and want nothing but the worst for Louisville.

In Lexington, there’s a sparkling 10-0 record, including significant wins over North Carolina, UConn and Indiana. We know how fanatical UK fans are in backing that program. Even in the lean years, the Big Blue crazies expect the best for themselves and want nothing but the worst for Louisville.

Let’s face it. Cardinal fans work, live, socialize and interact with UK fans. The taunts over a loss to Western Carolina are 10 times as bad as they were about UK’s loss to VMI last year. As Cardinal fans, we are bombarded with the new coach, the new success, the records, the John Wall come lately. They do outnumber us in the state, and it wears on U of L fans.

Louisville is 5-3, but has a chance of being 10-3 or 9-4 before the matchup January 2nd at Rupp Arena. Many schools would sacrifice an athletic director or switch school mascots for that kind of record. However, Rick Pitino’s teams traditionally hit their stride in January and continue to improve.

So take a deep breath.  Stop the unnecessary rage against Pitino. We all knew it would be tough after T-Will, Earl Clark and Andre McGee departed.   This team is a work in progress. The defense will improve. The rebounding will develop. Let not the fly-by-night success of a rival diminish Louisville’s accomplishments in recent years. The season is young.

Timing Is Everything

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Great news for University of Louisville football: the 2009-10 U of L basketball schedule reportedly will be announced Thursday or Friday this week, allowing most of the hoopla to subside almost a full week before the next football game. Good move, if true.