Despite losing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, two key pieces from last year’s championship team, Louisville returns a slew of talented players that will have Rick Pitino and Co. challenging for a national championship once again. Player of the Year candidate Russ Smith is back for his senior season, as are Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock among others.
Three key pieces that weren’t on the floor last year will be relied upon to help fill the void that Siva has left, namely junior college transfer Chris Jones. Rob Dauster called Jones one of the top “X-factors” for the coming season, and posited that many may be overlooking just how important Siva was to last year’s squad. Siva was often the one ensuring Russ Smith played within himself — at least, he tried to — and the onus this season may fall on Jones to accomplish that.
It is more than just Jones, however. Freshmen Terry Rozier and Anton Gill will be relied on, as well.
After an intrasquad scrimmage this past weekend, Rick Pitino told The Courier Journal:
“Rozier is as cool a customer as you’ll see. I don’t think Chris played particularly well tonight, but I’ve watched him in practice do some things that are just outstanding. I think Anton is a smooth basketball player…With all three of them, they don’t rattle. They know how to play the game.”
Anyone who watched Louisville play last year knew they hung their hat on the defensive end. For all the attention Smith receives on the offensive end with his explosive first step and propensity to get to the basket, he’s also one of the best perimeter defenders out there.
Pitino’s defense isn’t easy to grasp, but Smith is pleased with what he has seen of the newcomers thus far: “No new guy knows our defensive intensity, and that’s no disrespect to them. We play a certain way that guys have to pick up on. But they’re coming along. I think they’re the best class to come in and pick stuff up that I’ve seen.”
Highlights from the Red vs. White scrimmage are found below: