Photo taken by JD Dotson in downtown Louisville.
“It’s not your job to like me. It’s mine.”
The Final Say with Zach McCrite returns next month. Until then, you can keep up with Zach on Twitter by following @BigEZ.
Photo taken by JD Dotson in downtown Louisville.
“It’s not your job to like me. It’s mine.”
The Final Say with Zach McCrite returns next month. Until then, you can keep up with Zach on Twitter by following @BigEZ.
Funds Needed To Complete Refurbishing of Historic Site
The Extol Sports Team Reports | Courtesy Photos
BUILT IN 1937, the Nachand Fieldhouse was home to Jeffersonville High School Basketball until 1971 and has played a vital role in not only the local community, but the entire state of Indiana.
At the time the fieldhouse was built, it was the largest fieldhouse in the state, second only to Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler. Nachand Fieldhouse has played host to thousands of events. Over the years, many people have called the venue their home away for home.
Now a group is working to restore the fieldhouse and ensure its future.
Earlier this year, Papa John’s founder John Schnatter donated $800,000 toward the effort to restore the historic facility. The Jeffersonville native announced his contribution in August, which ignited a campaign by the Jeffersonville Parks Authority and its supporters to raise the remaining funds needed for the $1.8 million necessary to refurbish the gymnasium.
The fieldhouse, which will be renamed John H. Schnatter Nachand Fieldhouse, was originally named after Jeffersonville Park’s Director Charles Nachand. To learn more, go to savethefieldhouse.net.
By Adam & Kristin Kleinert
Basketball season is a bustling time in the Kleinert household. It’s been like this for some years now and, though it’s a hectic time for our family, we honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, our oldest child’s first public outing (she’s now a freshman) was to attend a varsity basketball game at the ripe old age of five days. A typical week this time of year most often contains two to three games for our kids on a weeknight (plus practices), followed by one or two high school games on the weekend. This year is especially exciting as, for the first time, one of our own will be participating at the high school level.
You may have read in previous articles about falling into the concession stand trap. Yes, this is the time of year when we really have to keep our meal plans organized so that we don’t fall into old habits. However, the importance of healthfully feeding your family during busy sports seasons isn’t our FamFitter topic this month. Rather, we want to focus on something we feel is just as important to a child’s health and wellbeing.
(Please excuse us as I, Adam, take over the rest of this column – hence the use of “I” going forward – while Kristin watches closely and edits my missteps.)
I love that our kids are involved in sports for numerous reasons. Probably more than any basket, home run, win or even loss, however, the one thing I am most excited for my kids to encounter is simply the experience of being coached. To be given a direct instruction and be accountable for carrying out that task. To be held accountable even outside of the athletic arena. To be obligated to follow an order whether they fully agree or not.
Unfortunately, I believe the above rationale is no longer shared by too many these days. It seems athletes and parents from youth on up have much more control over coaches than at any time before. Players today conduct themselves as if they deserve instant gratification. If they don’t receive what they desire, it is far too common for the parent to immediately voice an opinion about the “injustice” that has surely occurred. (I hope my implied sarcasm is evident here.) Often, if all else fails and the athlete or family can’t seem to get exactly what they desire from a coach, the athlete just quits. I’ve mentioned before that I have been involved in youth and high school sports for many years and, sadly, I can’t count how many times I have seen this occur. Though the frequency rate in recent years has become staggering, I admit haven’t gotten used to it. It never fails to blow me away when the excuse I hear time and time again is: “I just don’t get along with the coach.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptional cases. For instance, if there is some sort of abuse taking place between a coach and athlete, then I hope the removal of a child from the situation isn’t the only action a parent takes. But when I hear someone state simply that they can’t get along with their coach, I inwardly cringe a little. OK…a lot.
Maybe I’m a product of my generation. Maybe I am just getting old. But I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all gotten out of hand. The bottom line, in my opinion, lies in this question: If we teach our children it’s OK to quit when they can’t get exactly what they want from an authority figure, then what are we teaching them about how to conduct themselves for the next 40 years? It’s ironic because, as adults, we actually look for opportunities to be coached. We even pay for it in the form of personal trainers, counselors, self-help books and life-coaches. We seek perspective in the areas in which we want to grow. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to do the same?
On the last day of school my senior year, a couple of my baseball buddies and I decided to pull a fairly harmless prank with some water balloons. After we drenched our victims and our coach caught wind of the hijinx, he ordered each of us to run 175 foul poles (down and back was one) before we would be allowed to play in the next – and final – game of the season. You know what? Not one of us flinched at the punishment. None of our parents contacted him to complain, nor did anyone remark that the discipline was unfair. Truth be told, I would have run 500 before giving any thought to the idea that there may be some way out of it. Today, I’m able to call this coach a friend, but I admit that I’d probably still take off running if he asked me to do so.
My first realization concerning the advantage of having been coached came in college when I was no longer involved in sports. I was enrolled in a very competitive graphic design program. Most of my classmates had received extensive art and design education in high school when I had taken none, nor was I the most talented artist in the department. However, I quickly learned I had something many of my peers did not. I knew how to compete and loved the challenge surrounding it. I also knew how to embrace criticism from professors, thus helping me push to levels I didn’t know I could attain. Finally, I knew how to work as a team – even with people with whom I didn’t get along – when many others had not experienced that in a previous setting.
Today, my wife and I not only look forward to our children’s successes and accomplishments, but rather, the challenges that will undoubtedly come as they remain involved in athletics. We will listen when they have an objection to something a coach has requested. We will hear them out when they feel that they have been disciplined for an unwarranted reason. However, we will not intervene unless action is absolutely necessary. Instead, we will wait for them to leave the room, then look at each other and smile, knowing valuable life lessons are being experienced in those moments.
Parenting is HARD and, while we cannot expect someone else to do it for us, we are blessed to have others who help in the journey. I urge you to embrace the wisdom and perspective athletic endeavors can instill in your prodigy. Let your kids run the foul poles. Let them be coached.
By Jim Biery
When I was seven, I was a typical kid who couldn’t wait to go outside and play with my friends. As I ran down the hallway and started down the hardwood stairs, I was also trying to save time and put on my shirt in the process. Halfway down, I missed a step and went head-first into the next to last step. After the crying was done and Mom had wiped all the tears away, I went next-door to play.
After a couple more pals showed up, we were ready to ride bikes. But the mother of my next-door neighbor said before he could go play he had to pick up the mess he left in the basement. We all joined together to help him out. Once we got to the basement, things began to change.
When I tried to look around for the toys we had to pick up, all I saw was black. I looked at the light in the corner and it looked just like the sun. No details of the lamp but just a round sphere of color. After a few failed attempts to see anything on the floor, I went back home and told my Mom what was happening. She took me straight to the family doctor, and he confirmed my first of a handful of concussions.
So, why am I telling you about something that happens to just about every kid in the world? (After all, most kids will fall, run into something or get hit in the head with an object.) It’s because, fairly recently, we have become aware of what multiple concussions can do to the human brain. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.
Let’s start with understanding exactly what I’m talking about.
The definition of a concussion is temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects, such as confusion or temporary incapacity. A concussion is also know as as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).
CTE, according to a recent Mayo Clinic report, is “a diagnosis only made at the time of an autopsy studying sections of the brain. CTE is a very rare condition. … CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease for which there is no treatment.”
The symptoms of CTE are difficulty thinking, impulsive behavior, depression, short term memory loss, and difficulty planning and carrying out tasks.
If you ask anyone who may be over the age of 50 (yours truly would fit into this category), these are the same symptoms of everyday life. So, why is football getting the lion’s share of the blame for CTE?
There have been a growing number of parents who have decided that football is too dangerous to play and have kept their kids out of the sport. Of course, parents are making these decisions to try and protect their kids, however you might be surprised to know what sports and activities bring the most danger to participants.
Jennifer Graham of Descret News reported researchers’ results in an article from April 2016. Researchers analyzed ER visits between 2003-2016 dealing with head trauma and concussions.
They put sports and activities into six categories: Contact sports like football, soccer, etc.; roller sports; skiing; equestrian; aquatic; and snow boarding.
The number one leader with 45 percent of ER visits was equestrian sports. Interpersonal contact sports was second with 20 percent of the reported visits. If we applied the same protective logic to results like these, little Suzy would never get that pony she has always wanted.
Listen, I’m not trying to say that riding horses or skateboarding or even snow skiing are inherently as dangerous as contact sports, but the only difference is that no one – to my knowledge – is taking actions to try and persuade people not to participate in these activities if someone chooses to. So why are we doing so with football?
THANKFULLY FOR ME, MY MOTHER DECIDED SHE WOULD NOT PLACE ANY OF HER KIDS IN THE PREVERBIAL PLASTIC BUBBLE. UNFORTUNATELY FOR HER, I WAS JUMPING OFF ROOFS AS A CHILD.
Concussions can be caused by all kinds of events, butwhat I’m wanting people to focus on is not to limit what a loved one does because of fear of what could happen, but to do research and continue to improve safety features of any given sport. Many steps have been taken to improve safety. For instance, kids under the age of 12 playing soccer are not allowed to use their heads to advance or try to score a goal. This is called a “header” and can cause damage to both the heads and necks of young soccer enthusiasts.
We can’t always prevent kids from doing what makes them happy and what they enjoy. My grandmother was so protective of my mother that she was not allowed to even ride a roller coaster. She told me this as I was growing up and said that it was something she wished she had done as a child.
Thankfully for me, my mother decided she would not place any of her kids in the preverbial plastic bubble. Unfortunately for her, I was jumping off roofs as a child. I would, of course, jump my bicycle over anything I could find to jump: trash cans, sewer pipes, even other kids! Yes, this did lead to some pretty gruesome crashes. Once while riding my bike no handed, I hit a sewer cap and flipped over the handle bars and knocked myself out.
Let’s not bury the sport of football to try and solve the concussion issue in kids. That’s like throwing the baby out which the bath water logic. How about we teach proper tackling, improve equipment and look for other ways to play sports of all kinds more safely instead of just telling people not play what they want.
New supporter volunteer group seeking people willing to assist.
Louisville City FC has launched a new volunteer group for supporters who wish to assist in the growth of the United Soccer League club and soccer throughout the region.
Christened the LouCity Bourbon Brigade in honor of the region’s rich bourbon heritage, this new supporter-led volunteer group will have the opportunity to work directly with the LouCity front office and team by helping grow the soccer club’s supporter base.
LouCity Bourbon Brigade members will be invited to:
• Become a Lou City ambassador and assist and help staff LCFC events
• Use their own contacts and networks in the community to help expand the LouCity season ticket base
• Use their experience to assist LouCity in generating new season ticket sales leads, season ticket renewals and assist with promotional events and campaigns throughout the year
• Support the club’s charitable and community-oriented efforts
• Assist in the club’s efforts to have a new stadium built in Butchertown
Fans who join the new volunteer group will be rewarded for their time and efforts with recognition, great rewards and prizes and unique money-can’t-buy LouCity experiences including:
• An opportunity to meet the team and coaching staff at an exclusive event
• Attend a closed-door team practice and a team talk from Coach James O’Connor
• Earn exclusive club merchandise
• Have their photo taken with their favorite LouCity player
• Earn a chance to travel with the club to a road game and be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a trip to an English Premiership match
• Help introduce the team as part of the Bourbon Brigade Tunnel on match day
Supporters interested in joining the new group can apply at the club’s website: www. louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade. Membership of the group is by application only and open to anyone 18 or over. Interviews for successful applicants will take place in November.
“This is a unique opportunity for our most dedicated fans to get even closer to the club by dedicating their time, effort and contacts in the community to help LouCity and soccer in general in our region grow and flourish,” said Louisville City FC Chief Operating Officer Steve Livingstone. “If you love Louisville City and soccer, and have some time to spare, we’d love to hear from you by applying at the LouCity website. There are some great rewards, experiences and recognition for those supporters who get involved.”
Supporters can apply to join the volunteer group at www.louisvillecityfc.com/bourbonbrigade or call Jon Davis at 502.384.8799, ext. 114 or email him at email@example.com.
By Howie Lindsey | 790 KRD
THAT’S THE QUESTION MOST EXASPERATED LOUISVILLE FANS HAVE BEEN ASKING OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. IT’S ALSO A COMMON QUESTION AMONG THE ARDENT BASKETBALL FANS IN INDIANA AND KENTUCKY AS THE CORE OF COLLEGE HOOPS SEEMS TO BE IN QUESTION DUE TO THE ONGOING FBI INVESTIGATION.
WHILE I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, LET’S ATTEMPT TO BREAK OUT THE CRYSTAL BALL TO DETERMINE WHAT MAY BE NEXT FOR A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND ENTITIES IN OUR SPORTING LANDSCAPE.
What’s next for Louisville Basketball?
In the short term, David Padgett and his new trio of assistant coaches — longtime veteran head coach Trent Johnson, eager assistant Greg Paulus and former program assistant R.J. Evans — will man the ship until a head coach can be hired. This year’s team has so much talent and athleticism that it just might surprise people on the national landscape who viewed Louisville as a lost cause after Rick Pitino’s firing.
Fans are going to love the new and improved Deng Adel with his incredible defense and improved jumpshot. Fans will like the smooth confidence of VJ King and the bouncy athleticism of Ray Spalding and more consistent play from Anas Mahmoud. And the freshmen? Darius Perry will be a sparkplug at guard and Malik Williams is a quiet, rebounding machine.
What about long term?
I recently spoke with Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra who said they were flooded with candidates when looking for assistant coaches. I think it will be the same when the Cardinals go looking for a head coach next spring. Louisville is still a Top 10 program with a Top 3 arena and competitive pay. It’s an elite job and — as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams once said — many coaches would crawl over broken glass to get to Louisville.
Williams, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Dayton’s Anthony Grant will all be on the short list of candidates.
What’s next for Rick Pitino?
Louisville’s Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino isn’t fighting for his job any more — that part of the fight is over. Now, he is fighting for his reputation.
Pitino and his lawyer, Steve Pence, filed a lawsuit against Adidas over its handling of the recruiting scandal that rocked the University of Louisville and four other universities last month. Pitino told Jay Bilas that Adidas “robbed him of his love of basketball.”
Through lawsuits against Adidas and the University of Louisville, Pitino will attempt to prove he didn’t know any of the alleged activities were going on. And he just might do that.
Regardless if he wins or not, it is difficult to imagine him coaching college basketball again at age 65. So what’s next? TV, of course. Rick Pitino would be a smash hit as a television analyst – breaking down games for ESPN or CBS. It’s a natural fit.
What’s that you say? No way a network hires him with the NCAA issues. Ahem, Lou Holtz left NC State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina on NCAA probation. That’s FIVE schools, and the TV networks love him. He’s even in rental car commercials. Pitino will follow that same path.
What’s next for the Yum! Center?
The specter of a possible NCAA Death Penalty is a worst case scenario for the Yum! Center and the city of Louisville. Without a season of men’s basketball games, the Yum! would have 20 more dates to fill and no real way to make up that kind of income.
The good news? Very few believe the NCAA will ever enact the Death Penalty on a program again. More likely, the NCAA will enact more post-season bans or perhaps the same kind of media blackout that hit Kentucky basketball during the “Kentucky Shame” days of the late 1980s.
The Yum! Center is restructuring debt and is also getting an extra $2.5 million per year from Louisville, it’s primary tenant, as well. Hopefully, that will keep it viable for years to come.
What’s next for Romeo Langford?
The New Albany superstar guard was once thought to be leaning toward Louisville. Not anymore. After recently visiting Indiana for Hoosier Hysteria, many people think his choices are Kansas, Indiana, Vandy, UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina. The trouble is — with the FBI still investigating every major program in the nation — committing to ANY college at this point is fairly perilous because of their involvement in possible recruiting violations. Well, except maybe Vandy.
So what’s a recruit to do? At the very least, it’d be best to wait until the spring to make the pick and even then, I wouldn’t advise him to sign a binding National Letter of Intent to any school. Romeo’s good enough that colleges will hold a spot for him if he tells them he’s on his way. [Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.]
What’s next for college basketball?
While some coaches have issued statements noting their “shock” and “surprise” at the allegations of rampant payments in college basketball, don’t believe them.
While individual coaches can be shocked that their actual assistant coaches were involved (see: Pitino, Rick), the fact that some recruits were getting paid is not news to anyone in the business.
And it’s not just an Adidas issue.
The assistant coaches ensnared in the first wave of the FBI probe worked for schools represented by Nike (Arizona, USC and Oklahoma State), Adidas (Louisville and Miami) and Under Armor (Auburn).
How big will the FBI’s net get? On the day the initial indictments were filed, the FBI told college basketball coaches, “We have your playbook. You will be better off contacting us before we contact you.”
In the weeks since then, some have suggested the initial estimates of 50-80 coaches involved, have been diminished, but others have said this issue is just getting started.
“There are some problems that are baked in that are perhaps a little more prevalent because of the structure of college basketball,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “but you don’t have to have too vivid an imagination to see this showing up in other sports.
“As a result, this is going to be around for a while, and we’re likely to be in the same situation we’re in now We don’t have very much information and we aren’t going to get a heads up before something happens, and as a result it’s a period of discomfort.”
So how big could this get? What happens next to summer shoe-circuit basketball? My guess would be the Blue Ribbon panel the NCAA convened to talk about the issue will shut down shoe-circuit basketball tournaments and camps in favor of NCAA-led summer efforts. Will that stop the cheating? No, but it should slow it down some.
What’s next for Tom Jurich?
In addition to firing Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville fired Athletic Director Tom Jurich during its cleanse of all things athletics in mid-October. Jurich, who likely stands to land a bundle of money from the university in a lawsuit over how his termination was carried out, could certainly take another athletics director job at another university. He has had many options over the years, offers from many of the top traditional programs in NCAA sports, but he has never left Louisville.
He could certainly say yes to one of those offers now, but my guess would be that he doesn’t.
Instead of finally taking one of the southern California schools up on their consistent offers, my guess would be he creates and chairs a search firm where he can be hired by schools all over the country to help hire coaches in major sports.
We all know he has a knack for hiring effective coaches, and this would allow him the flexibility to work outside the typical athletics framework to land the right candidates with the right jobs. He’d be a smashing success at it.
What’s next for the Louisville Athletics?
Interim President Greg Postel may have struck gold in Vince Tyra. The life-long Louisville fan whose father, Charlie, is one of the greatest players to ever don a Louisville uniform, Vince hit the ground running as acting AD and hasn’t looked back.
Tyra met with every coach on campus in the first two days of his hiring, he met every team on campus in the first three weeks and he seems intent on keeping his focus on exactly the right thing: the student-athletes on campus.
One of Tom Jurich’s most-effective leadership traits was focusing on the student-athlete experience and making sure they had everything they needed to be successful. Tyra seems intent on continuing that tradition, asking the athletes he meets, “What can I do to make you successful?” That’s such a powerful question when executed with the right intent.
Is Tyra the long-term solution? No one is sure, including Tyra.
His pay structure — $100,000 per month of his employment — is set up to be fairly indefinite.
Much like Louisville basketball, Louisville athletics will have no shortage of elite candidates who would crawl to come to campus to run athletics in the future. With the nearly $400 million in facility assets on campus and a primo spot in the ACC, the future of Louisville athletics looks strong as long as athletics isn’t diminished under a future UofL administration.
What’s next for other Louisville coaches?
One of the most common questions over the last several weeks has been what happens to the other coaches that Tom Jurich brought to campus? Let’s start with this: None of the coaches will leave immediately. They have seasons to coach and have very lucrative contracts in place with compensation to boot. But the long-term success of UofL will depend on the board of trustees finding an athletic director who can continue Louisville’s upward trajectory.
Certainly, Tom Jurich could be a firebrand, but the board would be making a mistake if they overcorrected and brought in a milquetoast, meager manager to replace Jurich.
Someone with a lack of vision could derail the forward progress in many of Louisville’s 23 sports and could cause Louisville’s current set of all-star coaches to start listening to other offers.
What’s next in local sports media?
UofL is building a new $8 million TV and production studio on campus. The new studio is part of the ACC’s contract requiring every school to have its own production studio up and running by the end of 2018 before the launch of the new network in 2019. So what does this mean for local sports media? Well, with schools and leagues taking over more production and shows, the amount of access granted to local media outlets may diminish. Conversely, the amount of options for fans to learn about their favorite team will be at an all-time high, with much of the slickly produced video content coming from the school directly.
As a side note, the new studios and production team will allow UofL students the ability to leave college with real broadcast experience for the first time in decades. That could be a nice feeder system of young talent for local TV and radio stations.
What’s next for Adidas and Louisville?
A common question over the last few weeks has been what happens to the 10-year, $160-million deal between Louisville and Adidas. It was, after all, an Adidas employee who was involved in the FBI scandal.
While no one knows for sure what will happen with the deal, my guess is that Tyra and UofL will do everything they can to make sure Louisville gets that money. Even though Interim President Greg Postel said he wanted “no part” of the money “if it’s tainted,” the agreement is so key to Louisville’s Athletic development that it would be prudent for Louisville and Adidas to implement more oversight and continue working together.
On Oct. 24, Tyra said “I’ve been through that thing quite a bit. The contract itself does not raise concerns for me. … We’ll go through that and flush out more details this week as we move along. But today I don’t have a report that there’s anything negative tied to that contract.”
The deal included an innovative Create Space on Louisville’s campus that would allow for product innovation and creation with the aid of athletes and trainers. It also established funding for internships and Sports Administration major opportunities that would give Louisville’s SPAD program a leg up on every University except perhaps Oregon, who has a similar partnership with Nike.
What’s next for local sports?
This is perhaps the most interesting question. Could Jurich’s firing at Louisville open the door for proponents of professional basketball at the Yum! Center? Possibly, but I still don’t think the city has enough corporate donors to make it happen. Of course, all that could change if Louisville’s bid to become Amazon’s HQ-2 is successful. Now THAT would revolutionize this region.
What’s next for the Louisville and Southern Indiana sports landscape likely includes the new stadium for LouCity FC and continued rise for that fan base and franchise. The location there in Butchertown could be a stellar spot, and the renderings the ownership group have proposed would make the stadium a showpiece on the highly visible I-64 corridor just east of downtown.
On the college level, newly signed deals for long-term rivalry games between Louisville and Indiana will be good for our area, plus the NCAA’s new charity basketball game legislation will allow for Kentucky and IU to arrange a new preseason basketball game in the Yum! Center each year to benefit a charity of John Calipari’s choosing. Won’t that be fun? Well, we can dream, can’t we?
[Editor’s Note: This issue of Extol Sports went to press Oct. 25.]
We asked a panel of “experts” to weigh in on the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball season. Here’s what they said.
HOWIE LINDSEY, 790 KRD
SURPRISE TEAM: Virginia Tech. I think they will be much tougher than people realize and it wouldn’t shock me if they are a Sweet 16 team this season.
DISAPPOINTING TEAM: North Carolina. They seem to be a preseason Top 10 team with a lot of question marks.
FINAL FOUR: Duke, Florida, West Virginia, Kansas
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Miles Bridges, Michigan State
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bob Huggins, West Virginia
JIM BIERY, Extol Sports Columnist
SURPRISE TEAM: Northwestern. First trip ever last year & majority of team coming back.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: UK. Top returning scorer just 4.6 PPG.
FINAL FOUR: Arizona, Michigan St, Villanova, Duke
PLAYER OF YEAR: Ethan Happ (Wisconsin) complete game defense & offense
COACH OF YEAR: Tom Izzo. Team is loaded and he is one of top teachers of the game.
ZACH MCCRITE, Extol Sports Columnist
SURPRISE TEAM: I’ll go with the homer pick for me: Indiana. Archie Miller went right to work in recruiting and, by all national accounts, really did well. Combine that with a new energy around Bloomington and why wouldn’t they return to the NCAA Tournament in 2018?
DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Louisville. With Rick Pitino not roaming the sidelines, I can’t imagine the expectations for this season being met. That’s no knock on new head coach David Padgett, it’s just a testament to my respect for Pitino as a coach.
FINAL FOUR: Shot in the dark: Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia and Florida.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jalen Brunson – Villanova. That’s off the board a little, but his effective field goal percentage was 61.9 last season. That sounds like a number a seven-footer would have. He’s a point guard!
COACH OF THE YEAR: Give me Bill Self. He’ll continue to run the Big 12 and will do it with more ease than in recent seasons.
STEVE KAUFMAN, Extol Sports Writer
First of all, anyone who tries to predict pretty much anything is a fool. So I do not stand behind any of these picks – unless I’m right!
SURPRISE TEAM: Missouri; great freshman class, especially the Porter brothers
DISAPPOINTING TEAMS: Duke, preseason No. 1 – I don’t think they’ll finish No. 1; Louisville, preseason No. 16 – just way too much turmoil, loss of a great coach, replaced by an inexperienced rookie coach, simply unfair to him; Minnesota, preseason No. 15 – not a good year for the Pitino family
FINAL FOUR: Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida (or some other four teams)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri or Kevin Knox, Kentucky
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike White, Florida (for no particular reason, except he’s done good things there and I think will continue to do good things); second choice – Archie Miller, Indiana
REX BEYERS, Professional Oddsmaker/SoIN native
SURPRISE TEAM: Penn State
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Kansas
FINAL FOUR: Xavier, Villanova, West Virginia, Arizona
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia
COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Mack, Xavier
ADAM KLEINERT, Extol Sports Art Director & Sports Fan
SURPRISE TEAM THIS SEASON: Alabama
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Gulp…Louisville
FINAL FOUR: Duke, Wichita State, Michigan State, Kansas
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marvin Bagley III, Duke
COACH OF THE YEAR: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
JEFF NUNN, CardinalSportsZone.com
SURPRISE TEAM: Xavier
DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Villanova
FINAL FOUR: Duke, Michigan State, Arizona, Xavier
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grayson Allen, Duke
COACH OF THE YEAR: Sean Miller – Arizona
Sure, Romeo Langford is a basketball star but his education is key, says dad Tim Langford.
By Angie Fenton | Photos by Steve Squall
It’s been nearly a year since we caught up with New Albany High School senior basketball star Romeo Langford, whom we featured in the inaugural issue of Extol Sports.
From an outside observer, life has looked like a constant whirlwind. Not so, said Romeo’s father, Tim Langford. “It’s been really fun.”
While fans have continued to debate where Romeo will end up going to college (and who knows, by the time this is published that debate might finally be settled) Tim said the teen and his family have remained focused on enjoying the ride. “The whole family is doing good,” said the elder Langford. “We stay under control. It’s not overwhelming as long as you keep everything in perspective and take it one day at a time and enjoy as we go.”
How do you stay grounded under a national spotlight that continues to intensify? In part, the daily morning phone father and son have shared since Romeo was in elementary school. Since Tim Langford goes to work very early, every morning when Romeo wakes up “we talk 3 to 5 minutes just on how he’s doing. We focus in on his school and classes. We can focus in on the sports part later after school.”
Regardless of where Romeo chooses to go to college, it’s the education aspect that is most important, Tim Langford said. “Education is the number one goal. Basketball is just a platform to get him a scholarship and get him an education. He’s going to whatever (school) he decides to, to get that degree.”
In the past, Romeo considered working toward an engineering major, but his dad says he’s now interested in studying communications, but there will be plenty of time to decide all of that later.
In the meantime, said Tim Langford, “we’re really excited about Romeo’s senior year (at New Albany) and looking forward to the whole season.”
BY JEFF NUNN OF CARDINALSPORTSZONE.COM
For the first time since 2001, the Louisville Cardinals will open the basketball season without Rick Pitino roaming the sideline. Pitino was officially fired Oct. 16, less than one month prior to the Nov. 12 season opener vs. George Mason. But Pitino would not have been there anyway due to serving a five-game suspension issued by the NCAA as part of his punishment for failure to monitor his program.
Assistant coaches Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair also will not be on the sideline. Fair was fired for his involvement in the Adidas scandal that is currently being investigated by the FBI. Johnson is still on administrative leave as the investigation continues.
The lone returning coach is former Louisville player, David Padgett. Padgett played at Kansas for his freshman year and then transferred to Louisville. He had to sit out the 2004-2005 year but played for Louisville under Rick Pitino from 2005- 2008. After playing a couple of seasons in Spain and on a couple NBA summer league teams, he unofficially retired from playing and turned his attention to coaching. Padgett returned to Louisville where he was the team’s assistant strength coach for the 2010-2011 year. He then left to become an assistant at IUPUI and stayed there until the end of the 2013-2014 season. Then, he returned to Louisville and was named director of basketball operations starting in the 2014-2015 season. On Sept. 29, he was named acting head coach, and when Pitino was officially fired, he was named interim head coach and given a one-year contract.
Padgett has hired former LSU, Stanford and TCU head coach Trent Johnson as an assistant coach. He also hired former Duke point guard and Ohio State assistant basketball coach Greg Paulus as another assistant. The final assistant spot was filled from within. R.J. Evans, who has been a program assistant since May, was elevated to acting assistant coach for the Cardinals on Oct. 20.
It seems as though Padgett has been thrust into a nearly impossible situation but his saving grace is that, despite losing a few key pieces from last year, his roster is loaded with talent.
Gone From Last Year: Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Johnson, Mangok Mathiang, Tony Hicks and David Levitch.
Mitchell is the biggest loss, as he averaged 15.9 points per game. He was drafted 13th overall by Denver in the NBA draft. Johnson (8.0 ppg and 5.8 rpg) and Mathiang ( 7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) were also major contributors. Hicks was a graduate transfer who had limited time due to injury while Levitch was a fan favorite.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Louisville returns seven scholarship players, including two starters and three who started various games throughout last season.
Quentin Snider: The 6-2 senior is from Louisville Ballard High School. This will be his third straight season as the starting point guard. He has started 62 games and appeared in every game for which he was healthy. He is a team co-captain for the second straight year and is expected to help lead this team through the turbulence of the coaching changes. He averaged 12.4 ppg, 4.1 apg and 2.7 rpg last season and his assist to turnover ratio is excellent at 2.7:1.
Deng Adel: Adel is a junior who flirted with going to the NBA draft after his sophomore season. The 6-7 forward averaged 12.1 ppg and 4.5 rpg last season and those numbers are expected to rise. He is most versatile Cardinal and will play both forward positions. He could play the two-guard spot if needed. It’s amazing how good he is considering he has only been playing basketball since he was 14. He is also a co-captain as voted by his teammates.
Raymond Spalding: This junior is a Louisville native out of Trinity High School. The athletic 6-10 big man will be expected to play both the power forward and center positions. He averaged 5.9 ppg and 5.5 rpg last year but will need to step up after the losses of the two big guys from last season. I expect a big season for him probably averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds per game.
Anas Mahmoud: The mobile seven-footer is another co-captain and has steadily improved each season. This is his senior year and I expect that improvement to continue. He is a great rim protector and the anchor on defense. He averages 2.1 blocks per game but is limited offensively. He averaged 5.7 ppg and 4 rpg last season and I look for those numbers to be close to the same this year.
VJ King: A 6-7 wing scored 5.5 ppg last season in limited time. This sophomore is expected to take a huge step forward. He was the prize recruit in the 2016 class and has a wealth of talent. He looks poised for a breakout year and I think he will get 20+ minutes a game and average 12 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Ryan McMahon: McMahon is a 6-0 sharpshooter who frequently comes off the bench to give the team a scoring lift. This kid shoots and shoots with confidence. He hasn’t met a 3-pointer he doesn’t like. Last year as a freshman, he attempted only 8 two-point field goals compared to 52 three-point field goals. I expect more of the same this year.
Dwayne Sutton: After playing his freshman year at UNC-Asheville, the Louisville native came home and had to sit out last year due to transfer rules. As a sophomore he is expected to have an immediate impact. The 6-5 wing averaged 12 ppg and 7.7 rpg as a freshman but it was against lesser competition. Look for him to get better as he gets accustomed to ACC basketball.
Monk, Fox and Adebayo are in the NBA. Willis, Briscoe, Hawkins and Humphries are gone, too. And the Wildcats start all over again. Again.
BY STEVE KAUFMAN
There’s a UK basketball schedule and poster out right now. Across the poster is the 2017-18 team, their silhouettes shrouded in shadowy gray. You can’t make out who they are, or see their faces.
Behind them is a wall of former Kentucky stars, all of whom you can see clearly – Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns, John Wall, Brandon Knight, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, the Harrisons.
There are two profound messages here.
One, Kentucky basketball history provides a challenge for each new freshman group to live up to.
Two, the dark silhouetting is apt. We know very little about these individuals.
It’s an annual rite of autumn for John Calipari to say (a) this is the youngest college team in the country, and (b) boy, do they have a lot to learn!
This year, though, he’s saying it’s the youngest college basketball team in history. And, if you saw the Blue-White scrimmage in October, boy do they have a lot to learn!
Rarely has a team, even a Calipari/Kentucky team, turned over to this extent. Of the main participants on last year’s squad, the only returnees are Wenyan Gabriel, who played 672 minutes and started 23 games but had lost his starting spot to Derek Willis by the end of the season; and Sacha Killeya-Jones, who played 14 games and 96 minutes but sat on the bench the entire last three months of the season.
Gabriel has good experience, he just needed to bulk up some. It seems he has.
Interestingly, on a 40-minute basis – one of those statistical tricks that evaluates a player’s statistics-per-minute, as if he had played entire games – Killeya-Jones would have had 12.9 rebounds a game last year, more than Bam Adebayo. Only Willis had more.
So, the returners may contribute more than expected.
But the real expectations rest on the shoulders of these freshmen, perhaps the most impressive group in the Calipari tenure – certainly the deepest. The problem is, who are they?
A good question. With a few exceptions, they’re a bunch of tall, very athletic kids who are reportedly able to play a variety of positions, from handling the ball, to shooting from the outside, to going strong to the basket, to rebounding on both ends. Which, if accurate, would make almost any combination of five of them a tremendous matchup problem for opponents. How do you guard 6-foot-9 with 6-3 or 6-4? And if you put the typical 6-foot-9 big man on one of them, you’re giving up speed, quickness and agility.
The exceptions are Quade Green, a 6-1 point guard who’s stepping into the big shoes of De’Aaron Fox, Ulis, Harrison, Knight and Wall; Jemarl Baker, a 6-4 guard reputed to be the best shooter of the group; and Nick Richards, a 7-footer whose only position is center.
Of the rest, the most familiar of the freshman names is Hamidou Diallo, a 6-5 guard from New York who was on the Kentucky roster half of last year and practiced with the team but never played a game. Diallo has amazing physical skills, but his outside shooting has been questioned.
The most promising of the freshman names is Kevin Knox, a 6-9 forward from Florida, reputed to be agile and athletic and able to score from anywhere. It’s said he can also handle the ball, if necessary.
The most intriguing name is P.J. Washington, a muscular 6-7 forward from Texas, who can also shoot from long.
The most mysterious name is Shai Gilgeous- Alexander, a 6-6 guard from Canada who was not upgraded to four stars by the ratings groups until very late, after he’d already committed to UK. Apparently, nobody had seen anything promising about him – until, suddenly, they did. It’s said he can play point guard or shooting guard or swingman or forward, and will be a nightmare on defense for opposing teams.
The most frustrating name is Jarred Vanderbilt, a five-star 6-9 forward from Houston who has outrageous skills and a bad foot. Vanderbilt first hurt the foot at the very end of an AAU game in the spring, hurt it again on campus in September, and is out either until the second semester in January; or just the first week or so of games; or, Calipari now says, perhaps the whole season.
Calling them forwards or guards is almost superfluous. Calipari has his buzz phrase for the season – “positionless basketball” – in which almost any of these players can play outside or inside, on the ball or off the ball, shooting jumpers or layups or dunks. There is the true possibility of playing five players on the court at one time the shortest of whom is 6-foot-9. That’s almost reminiscent of the 2014-15 team that occasionally had 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein, 6-11 Karl-Anthony Towns and 6-10 Trey Lyles on the court at the same time, with the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins. You might remember that team.