The 2013-14 U of L Cards and black-suited support staff — trainers, doctors, assistant coaches — were set and poised mid-court at the Yum! for the team photo. The chair front row center was empty.
Which meant that, despite last year’s magical run to national title, some things are the same as they ever was.
All assembled for basketball Media Day were waiting The Rick’s Entrance.
Could it be any other way?
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Watching the tape of Luke Hancock reeling in the Michigan Wolverines near the end of the first half of the title game still mesmerizes. What is the how and why some players rise to and above such competitive occasions?
I got a hint of the reason when chatting up Hancock yesterday.
“It seems to me that Peyton and Gorgui provided an important mature presence last year. What will the Cards have this year to replace that,” I asked the first Final Four MOP ever who wasn’t a starter?
Without a hint of arrogance, bristle or pique, Hancock answered with a striking confidence. “I had something to do with that. This year I need to take on more of a roll.”
There’s a reason why newcomer Terry Rozier calls Hancock, “the team’s dad.”
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Not only is Rozier a baller Card fans are going to love, but he can jabber. He’s a very engaging kid, exuberant, kind of like TWill without the undercurrent of menace and bipolar baggage.
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Other snippets — some illuminating, some not — from yesterday’s press dog and pony show:
Newcomer Chris Jones, another guard Card fans are going to love, calls himself “the biggest goofball on the team” None of his mates disagreed. Chane Behanan, fondly: “Peanut is the goofiest guy on the team. Always. And he jumps on everybody’s mistakes.”
“Even more than Russ,” Jones was asked. “Oh, yes. Absolutely.”
Asked when he became aware of the rivalry with UK, the juco transfer said, “The day I signed.”
Silent L shared that he played football in high school for a bit. Until he realized, he was “doing it for my dad,” and “just liked basketball better.”
Asked what he worked on this summer, a buffer than you remember Wayne Blackshear answered, “I concentrated on getting my confidence back.”
Kevin Ware was surrounded by more cameras and mics than any other of the squad. He shared how “glad I was when all the publicity after the Final Four started to wear off. I’d go the the mall and 70 or 80 people would follow me around, pointing and taking pictures.”
Asked to compare Chris Jones with Peyton Siva, Chane Behanan said, “Peyton was an A+. Chris is an AA.”
Asked what spurred him to becoming a beast on the boards in the second half of the title game, Behanan said, “At halftime, Kevin Keatts told me if I didn’t get 10 rebounds, we were going to lose the game.”
The team was loose. The newcomers seemed to fit right in. Good signs, both.
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It’s difficult, for me anyway, to tell much from these Red/White scrimmages.
I was impressed by how complete are the games of Rozier and Jones. By what raw talent Mango possesses. How lost, but full of potential, Anton Gill and Akoy Agau appear.
Watching the scrimmage, I was asked whether the Cardinals can repeat as National Champs?
I checked out the play and players on the court, answering, “Yes, Louisville certainly can win it all again.”
At which point, I realized that neither Final Four MOP Luke Hancock, nor America’s darling, Kevin Ware, who kept Oregon at bay in his finest performance as a Card in the Regional semi-final, played a second during the scrimmage.
Hope for a repeat is springing eternal.
– Seedy K