Taja Cole looking for a new basketball home

Sorry to learn that Taja Cole of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team will be transferring to another school.

Taja Cole, goodbye and good luck.
Taja Cole, goodbye and good luck.

The 5-foot-7 freshman from Richmond, Va., was a McDonald’s All American coming out of high school. She was an enthusiastic player with a positive attitude. She never seemed to find her niche at UofL, rarely having much of an impact during games.

Cole participated in 34 games, starting in six of them, contributing 2.6 points per game. She averaged 15.2 minutes of playing time, and made 66 assists and 26 steals during the season.

She may have seen the writing on the wall in the final game. a loss to DePaul in NCAA competition, getting only six minutes of playing time. According to one report, UofL was outscored 21-6 when she was in, with 14 of those points from her defensive assignment.

Some talented guards coming on board next season in Sydney Zambrotta and Jazmine Jones, who likely would made playing time sparse for Taja.

She’s definitely a team player, and someone is going to get a good person.

The Force is strong, Louisville women zap Pittsburgh

starwars 2271 copyDarth Vadar, Princess Leia and Kylo Ren, aka Mike, Theresa and Aspen Schmidt, were among the 11,641 fans watching the Louisville women demolish Pittsburgh on Star Wars Day at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Force fully embraced the University of Louisville women’s basketball team three days earlier when the Cardinals dissected 17th-ranked Miami on the Hurricanes’ home court, giving UofL sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Characters from the seven different Star Wars movies arrived Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center to see the UofL women conclude the regular season, Darth Vadar was everywhere it seemed, usually in the company of Princess Leia, or Yoda. Boba Fet here, Chewbacca there, Yoda here, and Storm Troopers everywhere. The visiting Pittsburgh women never had a chance, The Force so prominent, so pervasive, so obviously leaning UofL’s way.

Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, won best costume.
Yoda, in the person of Noah Tiwari, who won best costume, poses with the Cardinal Bird.

The Louisville women erupted early, claiming a 14-0 lead, stretching it to 27-4, and and 42-10 at the end of the first half.  When it was all over, UofL had prevailed 65-36, improving its overall record to 24-6 and claiming the runner-up spot in the ACC with a 15-1 record.

Leading the charge again was Myisha Hines-Allen, scoring nine of Louisville’s first 10 points after tipoff. She would score 13 points in the first quarter, going on to achieve her ninth double-double of the season and 10th of her career, with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds.

“We had a lot of energy coming out,” said sophomore Myisha Hines-Allen, in a possible thinly-veiled reference to The Force. Whatever, Hines-Allen has been imposing her will on ACC opponents with regularity of late.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 4.54.04 PM“She’s just a really tough matchup right now for a lot of people,” said UofL Coach Jeff Walz, “and if she continues – you’re getting 25 points on 14 shots – that’s pretty darn good.”

Briahanna Jackson continuing to feel The Force as well, an inexhaustible source of energy, the player nobody wants defending them. No breathing while she’s around. She’s a marvel to watch around the basket, sometimes getting ahead of herself but always entertaining to watch. Notching 12 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Taja Cole coming around, notching six points and five assists in this one.

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Courtnee Walson left midway in the first quarter and didn’t return after injuring a pinky finger. She should be ready to go again in the ACC Tournament.

The second-seeded Cardinals will play at 6 p.m. on Friday against the winner of No. 7-seed Georgia Tech and No. 10 Wake Forest/No. 15 Clemson.

Jeff Walz: Great expectations for Louisville women’s basketball

Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to UofL women's basketball tipoff luncheon.
Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to the UofL women’s basketball tipoff luncheon at the Downtown Marriott.

A crowd of more than 650 people showed up for the 2015 tip-off luncheon for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team Wednesday at the Downtown Marriott. Quite a contrast from a few years ago when the event was drawing maybe 300 fans.

Coach Jeff Walz, entering his ninth season at UofL, acknowledging the growing support, along with the sense of anticipation for the upcoming season.  “It’s all about expectations,” he told the media before lunch. “When I first got here we were talking about getting past the second round in the NCAA,” he said. “Now we’re talking about Final Fours and winning championships. I’m really proud of where this program is now but we’re not satisfied.”

During his first eight seasons, Walz has a 208-77 won-lost record. His teams have been to the Sweet 16 six times and have finished as national runner-up twice while turning out five WNBA draft picks, including Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel.

Walz said recruiting success has made it possible to raise expectations. “In order to have expectations, you have to have great players. You can coach as much as you want, but if you don’t have players who can perform it really doesn’t matter.”

His 2015 recruiting class includes five players ranked among the top 50 in the country, including Asia Durr, considered among the best in the class. It also includes 6-foot-3 Samantha Fuering, 6-foot-4 Erin DeGrate, Taja Cole and Brianna Jones.

Another addition is Briahanna Jackson, an outstanding transfer guard from Central Florida University, who was introduced publicly for the first time during the luncheon. She’s good enough to possibly nail down a starting spot.

“We have a wonderful group of young women,” he said during the luncheon. “This has been one of the most enjoyable pre-seasons that I have had.  They work hard, they have a great sense of humor and they care about each other. You’re going to be excited about this group.”

*   *   *

Walz also took a moment to express his appreciation to Tom Jurich for hiring him. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Tom Jurich giving me this opportunity nine years ago,” he said.

Alluding to his one-time stuttering challenge, Walz said “it took some courage for Tom to hire me. This (making public speeches) was something I didn’t do very well, speaking in front of people, speaking to the media. It’s part of the job. You have to go out there and sell your product and sell your university.

“I’m grateful to Tom for giving the opportunity. It’s hard to believe I’m going on year nine. I plan on being here for many more years.”

Louisville women jump to No. 3, get 5-star commitment

The University of Louisville women’s basketball is ranked No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press, improving their position for the third week in a row.

UConn, with its 26-0 won-lost record, was the unanimous pick for no. 1 with 36 first place votes. Notre Dame, at 24-0, is second.

Louisville improved its record to 25-2, best in the program’s history, with wins over Temple and Memphis during the past week, passing up Duke (22-3) after the Blue Devils lost to 11th-ranked North Carolina by 11 points.

UofL is followed by South Carolina (23-2), Stanford (24-2), Baylor (22-3), Duke, Maryland (20-4), Penn State (20-5) and Tennessee (20-5).

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Jeff Walz got some good news Monday from Taja Cole, a five-star 5-foot-7 point guard from Richmond, Va., who committed to pursue her college basketball career at Louisville.

Taja Cole
Taja Cole

As good as they come, according to G.A.M.E. Sports Group:

Number 7 point guard, number 17 overall player in the class of 2015. Smooth lefty that can handle the rock and finish with both hands. Explosive first step and terrific change of pace. Elevates well and knocks down the mid-range pull-up with consistency. Lives in the paint where she can finish or create for others. Terrific basketball I.Q. which she uses to anticipate and disrupt other guards on the defensive end. Continues to develop her long range jump shot which should make her one of if not the top point guard in her class.

She describes herself thusly on her Twitter account (@_iAmFuture): “Married to the game. I’m a determined player, that works hard each & everyday not only for myself but for my mom & sister(R.I.P. Sis).” Among her tweets: “In my mind, I’m always the best. If I walk out on the court & I think the next person is better, I’ve already lost.”