Louisville fans got their first look at Rick Pitino’s latest squad Sunday afternoon, as the team held its annual Red-White Scrimmage at the KFC Yum! Center. Guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier and forward Montrezl Harrell are expected to lead the way as the program plays its first season as a member of the ACC, and on Sunday each was productive for their respective teams.
Harrell scored 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds, but it was Jones’ three-pointer in the final seconds that sealed the 75-72 win for the White team (highlights can been seen in the linked story). Jones (18 points, eight assists) and Harrell combined to score 42 points, with sophomore Anton Gill (14 points, seven assists) and freshman Anas Mahmoud (12, seven and three blocks) also scoring in double figures. Rozier paced the Red team with a game-high 25 points and four assists, and Wayne Blackshear added 20 along with 11 rebounds.
Harrell, Jones and Rozier are the surest best for a team that’s looking to account for the loss of guard Russ Smith and wing Luke Hancock from a team that reached the Sweet 16 a season ago. But the key for Louisville will be what their other options can give them. Blackshear’s struggled with the task of being aggressive on a consistent basis throughout his time at Louisville, but with his being named a captain for this year’s team and Sunday’s outing maybe things are changing for him.
Blackshear, Gill and the young big men, especially freshman Chinanu Onuaku (nine points, ten rebounds Sunday), will need to step forward if the Cardinals are to contend for an ACC title. In a story by Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the freshmen noted that an important part of the adjustment process has been their getting used to the physical demands that come with playing in Pitino’s high-paced system.
All six U of L freshmen said at Sunday’s media day that they’ve focused on conditioning — some losing weight, some gaining it — as they try to acclimate to the college game and coach Rick Pitino’s demanding style of play.
“Back home, I didn’t have to work out every day,” said center Chinanu Onuaku, whose physical transformation has earned praise from the coach. “In high school, it wasn’t a necessity, but when you get here, they force you to work out every day so you can get better.”
The biggest question coming out of Sunday’s scrimmage is how will Louisville’s front court rotation (after Harrell and Mangok Mathiang) work itself out ahead of the start of the 2014-15 season. Onuaku’s been on the receiving end of some praise, but did Mahmoud’s performance change anything given the fact that he was labeled a candidate to redshirt? That remains to be seen.