Louisville basketball and the dog days

University of Louisville fans getting psyched for the 2015 college football season were suddenly propelled into basketball mode on Tuesday with Rick Pitino’s troops beginning a nine-game exhibition schedule in Puerto Rico.

In the middle of August, mind you. But first they had to subscribe to GoCardsTV, paying a subscription fee (which somehow winds up being something like $10.45 instead of $9.95 as advertised), figuring out the system, and then hooking the computer up to the big screen TV.

Jay Henderson impressive in debut.
Jay Henderson impressive in debut.

Never wait until final minute to do this, there are always technical obstacles to overcome and they will affect your mood, especially after a day of other challenges. The telecast doesn’t begin until the last possible second, increasing the apprehension and doubts. If we’re compelled to watch college basketball in late summer, the process should be easier. When the connection is complete, Rick Pitino is nowhere to be found on either bench in the first game.

Be that as it may, Pitino really needed the Puerto Rico trip this year, with so many new faces in key positions.

While there may be some better shooters, it was immediately clear in both games the UofL will continue to struggle at the center position. Scoring largely remains a foreign concept for Chinanu Onuaku, Anas Mahmoud, Matz Stockman and Mangok Mathiang. Some improvement, especially for Onuaku, but still lots of unpredictability, lack of consistency. The projects continue to abound in the middle.

The three-point game will be better with the additions of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who had 36 and 13 points, respectively against the PR National Team. Some natural shooters for a change, even if they are here for only one season. Shouldn’t be that hard to find freshman who can shoot. Really.

Speaking of freshmen, Donovan Mitchell’s coming out party was less than impressive. Possibly because of the aggressive Puerto Rico defense, he never seemed to get into the flow of the game during his 23 minutes. Two points while making two free throws but he did come up with three rebounds. Raymond Spalding reminds one of Earl Clark, with all his physicality and reckless abandon around the basket.

A surprising exhibition debut from Jay Henderson, a freshman walk on, who kept UofL close in the first exhibition, with his 16 points. A player whose name has rarely been mentioned. Henderson? Who? A nice first impression, catching Rick Pitino’s eye, creating some buzz.  As for Ryan McMahon, it was immediately clear why Pitino had to have him, clicking on three of nine attempts behind the three-point line. That red shirt status could be changing.

The Puerto Ricans are good, with a mix of professionals and playing together experience going for them. Pitino, their coach this summer, is taking full advantage of edge to take his other team to school this week.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.