Wayne Blackshear passed on opportunities

Whatever, Wayne.

Wayne Blackshear telling the Chicago Tribune, “I sacrificed my game a lot at Louisville for team success. I tried to fit in too much. I really couldn’t show what I could do.”

Blackshear averaged 31.4 minutes per game for the University of Louisville, plenty of time to show what he could do.

Wayne Blackshear
Wayne Blackshear

Coach Rick Pitino made him a captain before the season began, indicating that Blackshear had finally put in the work over the summer to move to the next level, become a team leader, more assertive on the court. Pitino taking issue with fans at times when Blackshear failed to live up to their expectations.

But Pitino also was among Blackshear’s most severe critics, saying after 2013-14 season: “The only player I’ve had in the past four years that hasn’t had substantial improvement is Wayne Blackshear. We’ve got to turn over a whole new leaf. For his own sake, he’s got to wake up and understand that the world will pass him by if he doesn’t live in that gym.”

Blackshear finally got the message, showing up at the gym during the summer months, Pitino proclaiming, “He’s been working twice a day, every single day, since school ended. He’s the biggest surprise and the biggest change.” Before the 2014-15 season began, Pitino named the soft-spoken Blackshear one of the team’s co-captains, hoping that would further motivate him.

But halfway through the season, Blackshear was as inconsistent as ever, hit and miss, a player with an NBA body and NBA skills playing with a passion that seemed to come and go. He would seem to make a breakthrough, only to regress the next game, disappearing for long periods at a time.

The low point came during a 69-59 loss to Syracuse in February when Blackshear fouled out in 19 minutes, with zero points, zero assists, one rebound, zero steals and two turnovers. The high point may have been his final game, a 76-70 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Regional final.  He scored 28 points, playing through sickness at half time and a bloody nose during much of the second half.

Probably the best game of his career, saving his best for the end. Had Blackshear played with the same passion throughout his career, he may have played himself into a high draft pick. Pitino gave him every opportunity to do that, encouraging him to be more aggressive, wanting him to take advantage of his abilities.

When push came to shove, however, the burden was usually on Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier or Chris Jones (before he left the team). Wayne, maybe. Some of the time.

As Eric Crawford observed about Blackshear’s comments, “They don’t jibe at all with the way things here, and they don’t serve any useful purpose for Blackshear.”

Sadly, Wayne, for whatever reason, was slow to take advantage of his opportunities at Louisville. If he didn’t show what he could do, that’s on him.

Over for Louisville, end for Blackshear and Harrell

Wayne Blackshear 3-29-15 copy

Wayne Blackshear leaves the floor for the last time, the cotton wad still plugging his right nostril, his jersey covered with red stains, having played on of his better games in a University of Louisville basketball uniform. He wanted this one badly.

Wrapping up a career that included participation in a national championship, two Final Fours, two Elite Eights, and four Sweet Sixteen’s. He was reaching his potential at the right time, going out with 28 points in his final game.

Even his best wasn’t good enough, with UofL managing only six field goals after the first half. The Cardinals had made  17 of 32 attempts during the first 20 minutes.  The scoring drought a recipe for disaster, opening the door for Michigan State’s 76-70 overtime win in the final game of the NCAA’s East Region.

— Montrezl Harrell looking beaten and battered, still feeling the effects of a second half in which he appeared to tire, lacking that familiar aggression, struggling with shots he had been making all season long. He had been making it look easy in the first half, raising his dunk total to more than 220 during his career.

Harrell was clearly fatigued, missing his final five shots while making only five of nine free throw attempts for the day. He collected most of 16 points in the first half. Thirty-nine minutes was a long, long time in this game. One has to wonder whether he would have welcomed more relief from Jaylen Johnson.

Harrell will not be remembered for his last game, however. He had a decision to make after last season — go pro or return to UofL. That decision made Louisville a contender in the ACC and the NCAA this season. Setting the standard for all future Louisville forwards with all those power moves around the basket.

— Terry Rozier collecting the majority of his 13 ponts on break away lay ups after steals. Michigan State was clearly prepared for him. And UofL appeared to lose confidence in the offense that got the team to this point, forcing Rozier to sling a few shots at the basket, which rarely works well.

— Mangok Mathiang missing a tip that could have won it for UofL with 3.2 seconds left. Then bouncing a free throw in to get to overtime, unable to hit the second try that could have sent UofL to another Final Four. If ever anyone should be motivated going into during the summer it should be Mangok.

— Quentin Snyder making a rare mistake, giving up the ball, with time running out in the overtime. Give him credit, however, for accepting the challenge after Chris Jones’ departure, accepting the challenge, playing a key role in Louisville’s surprising run during the tournament. The experience will be invaluable as he continues to develop over his career.

The season ends just short of an 11th appearance in the Final Four. An impressive start during the first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, reaffirming the tradition of excellence that is University of Louisville basketball.

Free throw shooting coming around for some Louisville players

Wake Forest

Free throw shooting is apparently getting more attention during University of Louisville practice sessions, with UofL connecting on 86 of 110 attempts over the past five games.

Just in time for UofL’s first men’s basketball game ever Sunday as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference at Wake Forest at 8 p.m.

BasketballHow.com photoo=
BasketballHow.com photo

The Cardinals were making free throws at a clip of 78.2 percent during the five-game streak, a vast improvement over 59% during the first eight games. For the season, they’re are now at 65% at the charity stripe.

Terry Rozier led the way, with 29 of 35 for 85.3, followed by Chris Jones, 17 of 20 for 85%, Montrezl Harrell 7 of 10 for 70%, Wayne Blackshear 18 of 27 for 66.7%, and Anas Mahmoud 4 of 4 for 100%.

Blackshear has actually slipped a bit during that period but remains the leading free throw shooter for the season, with 43 of 58 for 74.1%. A couple of those misses standing out, two clunkers in three attempts with 1:32 remaining in the nail biter against Kentucky.

Rick Pitino may want to consider giving Mangok Mathiang a little extra time at the line. He’s good for only eight of 20 attempts for 40%.

Non-stop Wayne Blackshear anticipates senior season at Louisville

For four minutes, 57 seconds, Wayne Blackshear on Wayne Blackshear:  inspired by Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva, taking his captain responsibilities seriously, wanting to be someone other players look up to, someone they can come to advice in basketball and life, and someone who will lead by example.

Wayne Blackshear new gym rat, new team captain

Rick Pitino is determined to bring out the best in Wayne Blackshear, declaring that the sole returning senior will be the captain of the 2014-15 University of Louisville basketball team.

That’s Pitino doing his motivational thing again, taking extraordinary measures to get into a young man’s head, adding the burden of leadership to a role player, calculating that Blackshear will respond in a positive way, and live up to the expectations that eluded him during his first three seasons.Wayne-Blackshear

Reminiscent of his declaring Larry O’Bannon a team captain going into his senior year. The following season he would become one of the go-to shooters, improving his field goal percentage from 38% to 49% and his scoring from 10.3 to 15.2 points per game. He was a pivotal player on UofL’s surprising Final Four team that year.

Pitino called Blackshear out during his post-season press conference, saying Blackshear was the only player in the past four years who hasn’t had substantial improvement.

“If you ask me to rate him as a person on a 10-point scale, I’d give him an 11,” he said. “But I told Wayne that you reap what you sow in this game. He’ll show up for practice and he’ll give me 100%.

“I told him, son, that’s not what you do here. The Luke Hancocks, the Russ Smiths, the Gorgui Diengs, they get in early, they stay late, they come in after, they come in at night time, and you’re not doing that. We have to turn over a whole new leaf. From this point on, I want you to text me every single day what you put into each day.

“For his own sake, he has to wake up and understand that the world will pass him by if he doesn’t live in that gym. He’a a great kid and he deserves a great senior year … I’m hoping Wayne has the same kind of senior year that Larry O’Bannon had.”