Terrence Jennings decides he’s ready

Must be something about the atmosphere around the tryouts.

Terrence Jennings, like Samardo Samuels before him, has hired an agent, going to give it a go in the NBA, regardless of how anyone else feels about his chances of making it. Done hired an agent. No turning back now.

Probably got caught up in the hoopla, the agents lining up to sign him, the players around him all gung ho to go. The fraternalization of it all, the survivor instinct. not wanting to be the guy left out of the mix. Things that work against you if you don’t have the game.

The tendency for University of Louisville basketball fans is to want to believe that Jennings would be so much better with another year of coaching. That he would take advantage of his size and defensive skills, combining with becoming a better shooter and a half decent rebounder.

Whether that would actually happen with T. J. is highly debatable, judging from his lack of progress over the past three seasons. Probably not much.

Jennings did have some moments, some good ones, including some memorable blocked shots and surprising free throws in huge games. And we appreciate the effort in the games, if not during the practice sessions.

We wish you well, T.J., and hope all your dreams come true.

Pitino torn between five candidates for assistant coaching spot

Rick Pitino still needs one more assistant basketball coach at the University of Louisville  after announcing the addition of Richard Pitino, Jr. and Wyking Jones to his staff Tuesday. He’s undecided on the third choice.

Pitino said Tuesday he is trying to decide between five candidates. “They’re all equal, they’re all great,” he said. “We will announce the name as soon as we make up our minds.”

He indicated that his son has played a key role in the search for the other two assistants. “I gave him a list of criteria and told him to go and find people who meet them.”

The criteria apparently is topped by recruiting, recruiting and recruiting in that order. The assistants get two-year contracts with major buyout clauses if they decide to go elsewhere in the future.

“I’m not looking for someone who wants to be a head coach and I’m telling them that,” said Pitino. “I want people who are ready to hit the road and get Louisville where we want to be.”

Other Pitino notes:

  • Says Jared Swopshire is getting better, has been using the treadmill and may be back before Rakeem Buckles is ready to return.
  • Says he is taking the approach that he doesn’t expect Terrence Jennings to return after submitting his name for the NBA draft. “I learned my lesson with Samardo,” he said.
  • The appeal to take his team to Puerto Rico was turned down by the NCAA. The primary reason Pitino took the job was so U of L could play against the Puerto Rico  national team. That not being possible, Pitino may opt out of the trip.
  • His team may travel to The Bahamas where they would be able to compete against a national team.
  • He will be meeting with some possible transfers into the program next Monday.
  • David Padgett, assistant strength coach, is “in on a couple of jobs” and may not return next season.
  • Richard’s baby girl was born Monday in Gainesville. 

More coverage of the press conference at Cardinal Laws.

Morehead ousts shaky Louisville

Someone had the Louisville basketball players in awe of their first round opponent, pounding into their heads just how tough Morehead State would be, not a team to take lightly, a monster of a team, clean your clock if you take them lightly.

They played those first eight-and-a-half minutes as if they were more nervous about Morehead State than playing in the opening game of the NCAA tournament. Stumbling off the bus, falling behind 15-2 in the shakiest start for U of L basketball in recent memory.

Good to instill respect for an opponent in one’s players, but scaring them to death? Whoa.

Morehead State is a decent team and Kenneth Faried is an exceptional rebounder. But when it counted in the first round of the NCAA, this Louisville team bore little resemblance to the one that won 25 games.

*     *    *

When a twisted toe ended Preston Knowles’ college career, it quickly became obvious that Knowles was the one player Louisville could not afford to lose in a continuing saga of injuries this season. The leader, the indispensable, the soul of this team, as he went so did his team.

Knowles was the inspiration, the conscience. the motivator, the glue. Without him there was no synergy.

The memories that will linger from this game unless we choose to completely block it from our memories include Preston hopping along on one leg, hopefully to find a quick cure in the dressing room, Preston in agony wanting the pain to go away just long enough to finish the game. Preston helplessly watching his teammates finish without him, pleading for them to get the job done. Preston sitting on the bench all by himself after the game.

Without Knowles this was a very ordinary team. A rare commodity, and he is gone.

*    *    *

Should be used to it by now but every time Terrence Jennings misses one of those easy lay ups, the observer lets loose with a stream of expletives. One of his advisors says Jennings lacks balance, a way of saying he’s not very coordinated. But if one has been in the gym every day for the past 10 or 15 years, there should be a way to compensate.

On the other hand, no one is better than Jennings when it comes to shot blocking other big men. This is when he becomes focused and intimidating. He blocked four of Kenneth Faried’s shots today, all but canceling out that portion of Faried’s game. Jennings is Dr. Jekyll on defense and Mr. Hyde on offense.

Might be a good idea for him to place a call to Felton Spencer who had a bit of “balance” problem when he was a freshman. Took a few ballet lessons, improving his coordination. Wound up having a nice NBA career.

Maybe some chiropractic assistance? Or possibly one of those Wii fitness games could be the key. Hey, we’re just trying to be helpful. Find a cure and U of L is a contender again. 

*     *     *

Rick Pitino will shoulder the responsibility for the loss. But it was also Pitino who transformed a team with no returning starters to being one of the all-time favorite Louisville teams. A team, he said, that restored his faith in young people, that made him feel young again, that made him fall in love with coaching all over again.

While the early exit in the first round is disappointing, he is the same coach who turned a “bridge” year into an unbelievably successful season, bringing back memories of great Louisville teams from the past, making it possible for U of L fans to believe anything was possible.

Back to the future for Louisville basketball

“What’s going on here, Bob?”

Surprising silence from the all-knowing TV color announcer, obviously not quite believing what he was seeing.

  • Another Kyle Kuric dunk, another roof-rattling roar from the crowd, happening so quickly, Louisville basketball going up by 28 points at the time. Along the way to an 87-60 win over Providence.
  • Peyton Siva with a steal, tripping, sliding, somehow making the perfect pass to Kuric for  easy layup, a maneuver Rick Pitino would ascribe as one of the most amazing plays he had ever seen.
  • Preston Knowles tossing one up over his head 1,000th of a second before the first half ends. Amazing stuff, even the video unable to confirm or deny. Indisputable. The basket obviously good.
  • Knowles not caring how it gets done, just so it does, getting his first double-double in four seasons, believe it or not, with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and don’t forget those five assists.
  • Terrence Jennings making those unorthodox hooks, making up for missing untold numbers of slam dunks.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Jennings shutting down the middle, five blocks between them.
  • Chris Smith getting a head-knocking five rebounds under the offensive basket, turning three of them into buckets.
  • Kuric soaring between the big guys for those how-does-he-do-that kind of shots, more than making up for the misses from his Korner.  Collecting how-does-he-do-that NINE rebounds.

What is happening, Bob, is a reality show, another real-life reenactment of what made the University of Louisville basketball a legendary program a couple of decades ago. U of L fans are being rewarded for their patience and belief in the program. A program exceeding expectations for many this season but right in line with the wishes and desires of the fanatical faithful.

Pitino plays sympathy card and Louisville escapes DePaul

The message from Rick Pitino before the game was that his team wasn’t getting better, just hanging on, trying to keep things together, despite all the overachieving, the comebacks, the surprising road wins and somehow being in the thick of the Big East race.

Strange coming from Pitino, the one always preaching positivity, the one always setting such high expectations despite the injuries that have plagued this team. Pitino has a reason for everything he says, whether he believes it or not.

Members of the Louisville basketball team must have been taking him seriously, barely escaping with a 61-57 win over a DePaul team that has yet to win a conference game. Playing tentatively, taking the night off in some categories, especially defensively — the No. 3 team in steals managing only six from a bottom feeder.

Pretty obvious that U of L is a much different team without Preston Knowles, not nearly as good. Maybe average at best. Put the Cards against any other Big East team Saturday and there may have been a very unhappy ending at the Yum! Center.

Yet there were those highlights that provide hope:

  • Terrence Jennings looking more confident on a couple of those hook shots, grasping the concept, one like he had been doing it all his life. Eight rebounds, including three on the offensive end.
  • Michael Marra thinking, missing a wide-open three point shot, saving the missed shot from going out of bounds, getting the ball to George Goode and back from George Goode. No time to think, this one from the corner, bottom of the net.
  • Anytime Peyton Siva gets back up off the floor, UofL fans consider themselves blessed. Once, twice, losing count. Will he get up this time? So far he has. No shooting eye this game but making 10 assists and only one turnover. Keep getting up Peyton.
  • Kyle Kuric looking more fragile as time goes on, none of those surprising dunks or blocks this outing but three of five behind the arc and 19 points.
  • Chris Smith keeps flirting with the casualty list, hitting the floor, bleeding from the head, hushing the crowd. Taking his seat next to trainer Fred Hina, indefinitely? No, returning to the court the next play, taking his life in his hands.

During a post-game interview, Pitino predicts that this same group will beat a good Notre Dame team on its home floor next Wednesday, the place where his teams have been trounced in recent seasons. Promises a win.

You can bet the players are listening.