Mitchell ends recruiting frenzy, chooses Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was an unknown quantity a couple of months ago, just a top 100 recruit looking for some attention from college basketball coaches.

A 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Wolfeboro Brewster in New Hampster, Mitchell did just that during the summer recruiting camps, attracting attention from a long list of colleges that included Boston College, Creighton, Florida State, Georgetown, Indiana, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, Providence, Villanova and others.

Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell

Among the others was the University of Louisville. Rick Pitino was on hand at an Under Armor camp in Atlanta last month when Mitchell lit up the gymnasium scoring 27 points, setting off a recruiting frenzy for one of the summer’s hottest stars.

Mitchell visited UofL on Thursday and wasted little time making a verbal commitment to become a part of the 2015 recruiting class. If reports are accurate, the newest commit is equally impressive on both ends of the court. Eric Bossi, a recruiting analyst for Rivals. told the Kansas Jayhawks Slant last week:

“It was an absolute monster of a month for Mitchell. He put on a show pretty much anywhere he went and was solid on both ends of the floor. He hit clutch jumpers at buzzers to win games, he dunked his own misses in traffic, and he played physical, in-your-face defense. 

“He was probably a bit underrated to begin with, but there is no question he has improved in every aspect of the game,” he added. “It is safe to expect that Mitchell makes a big jump in the next 2015 ranking update.”

A prolific shooter, a serious defender and a good student as well, Mitchell should be a good fit in Pitino’s system. No dragging out the recruiting process, he’s decisive, capitalizing quickly on  a great opportunity at UofL.

Russ Smith’s championship jersey goes missing

The jersey worn by Russ Smith in the University of Louisville’s 2013 NCAA basketball championship game has disappeared and some people at Federal Express are catching some heat.

The jersey was in a frame delivered by FedEx to Russ Smith, Sr. but the glass and frame were broken.

Smith filed a claim, and was told to return the frame, which he returned with the No. 2 jersey still inside, as requested by the company.

A few days later Russ, Jr. is told by someone at Federal Express that that the jersey was thrown away. “So we comply only for them to throw my jersey away and say ‘sorry,’ he tweeted Friday.

Anyone actually believe an NCAA championship jersey was thrown away? Well, if the item was processed in Memphis, home of the Federal Express headquarters and the University of Memphis Tigers, it is entirely possible. A Memphis fan throwing the jersey away out of spite.

Not that difficult to comprehend.  But Jonathan Blue, a Louisville financial wizard and member of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, apparently isn’t buying either explanation, tweeting this late Friday:

An admirable gesture on Blue’s part but it’s doubtful he will have to make good on the offer. Memphis is a basketball town with more than its share of basketball junkies. NCAA championship jerseys don’t just disappear. [Turns out it was a Louisville packing facility. Was it a UK fan instead?]

We suspect Federal Express, now acutely aware of the jersey’s value and the impending embarrassing publicity, has launched a more robust investigation. Someone at FedEx could be in serious trouble.

1986 NCAA champs survived Memphis State scare

The memories will come flooding back for University of Louisville basketball fans who were fortunate enough to be around for the 1985-86 season, especially for the final regular season game against Memphis State at Freedom Hall.

UofL with Pervis Ellison, Billy Thompson, Milt Wagner, Jeff Hall and Tony Kimbro. Denny Crum coaching, with Bobby Dotson and Wade Houston assisting, Dr. Rudy Ellis, the trainer, and John Tong the public address announcer.

Memphis coached by Dana Kirk, a former UofL assistant, with such players as Andre Turner and Baskerville Holmes.

The game will come down to the final second, the outcome deciding the Metro Conference champion.

Thanks to Justin Bowen

Memphis shaves deficit, Louisville beards

No reason to fret over a temporary setback. First loss in March since 2011.

A Memphis team, coming off a loss to an overlooked opponent, facing arch rival Louisville, playing on its home court with fans whipped into a lather, some of them paying outlandish ticket prices.

Memphis badly wanting a win, almost out of it with UofL owning an eight-point lead with 4:23 remaining. Whoops, somebody celebrating a bit too early.

Memphis still hungry, running on adrenaline, taking advantage of the drop in intensity, defeating Louisville 72-66, lusting coming true for the Memphians, sending the visitors to the barber shop.

Montrezl Harrell playing the game of his career, dominating every phase of the game until the closing minutes. Fearless, an uncommon man among ordinary men, strong, shaking off Memphis defenders like fleas. When he wasn’t plumbing the basket, Harrell was finding it from the outside. Collecting 25 points and 12 rebounds in an unforgettable performance.

Russ Smith off to another sizzling performance against a good opponent, scoring 14 points with the University of Louisville trailing Memphis 24-20 at the 8:01 mark in the first half. He would cool off dramatically shortly thereafter, however, failing to hit on three shot attempts, including two Russ Smith-type layups.

Russ would manage a couple of layups and find Harrell for a dunk in the second half but that was about the extent of his productivity. While the official stats reveal only two turnovers, the play-by-play indicates at least three of them. The fatal turnover would come with the score tied at 65-65 with 2:41 remaining. Russ would miss three shot attempts before fouling out with 40 seconds to go.

Twenty minutes Russ probably wants to forget but needs to learn from if UofL is to get back in rhythm.

Chris Jones unceremoniously returning home to Memphis, more than a little tight, hitting only one of 10 shots, finding only one assist while twice turning the ball over. Hopefully has it out of his system, with another homecoming in a couple of weeks in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

Mangok Mathiang reverting to familiar form, credited with two rebounds and two turnovers. Nothing close to a block in this one.

Stephan Van Treese surprised himself hitting two of two free throws after being jabbed by a Memphis player. Made a couple of rebounds and clogged up the middle at times. Running out of time to get better.

Nothing fans haven’t seen before this season, Louisville losing to a ranked opponent for the fifth time in six tries. The only difference this time the early celebrating, something the players will keep in mind as they trim their collective beard.