Off the court, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is really into the horse track. The two-time NCAA champion coach will race his horse, Goldencents in this year’s Kentucky Derby. (Which you can watch live online here.)
But through recent years, Pitino has had the habit of naming his horses after his Cardinal players. Following Monday’s press conference, Pitino will only need to name one more player after a horse to have a starting five.
He named two of his horses Dieng and Siva after Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva. Then last summer he went more creative and dubbed one of his horses Russdiculous after returning guard Russ Smith. On Monday, the future Hall of Famer announced the name of his new 2-year-old horse, “Three Point Luke,” in honor of the 2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Luke Hancock. Though Pitino said he didn’t come up with the name, horse trainer Dennis O’Neill did.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.