On November 20, 2009, Russ Smith signed with the University of Louisville. In an attempt to troll a certain internet message board that has a propensity to overreact, Rick Pitino made an ominous (and potentially overzealous) comparison to former Cardinal great DeJuan Wheat:
"Russ reminds our staff of former U of L All-American DeJuan Wheat. He's exactly what we were looking for from an offensive standpoint. He's obviously a great scorer and will play two positions for us. He's an unguardable one-on-one basketball player who has learned to make others better."
Because Russ didn’t have a substantial amount of golden stars next to his name, Pitino’s comment drew the ire of over-reactionary radio show callers and certain internet message board bros. After all, Louisville was heading toward a potentially disappointing year after the heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight the prior year. Louisville fans wanted to feel good about the future, and the signing of an unheralded player was not exactly the remedy that they were looking for.
Clearly, Rick Pitino was losing his mind in comparing a no-name guard without any other significant college offers to a beloved Louisville Cardinal that would one day see his name hung from the rafters the KFC Yum! Center, right?
Let’s analyze Pitino’s statement:
"He's exactly what we were looking for from an offensive standpoint." Well, of course.
"He's obviously a great scorer and will play two positions for us." Russ is averaging 20 points per game and assuming the role of the backup point guard. When Peyton Siva fouled out during the Elite Eight matchup against Florida, Russ was able to lead the team to victory in the utmost Russdiculous manner possible.
"He's an unguardable one-on-one basketball player who has learned to make others better." Absolutely. Russ makes us all better at everything we do.
Russ Smith is a beloved player who anchors and defines his team, much like DeJuan Wheat was. The most exciting part of all of this is that the legend of Russ Smith is far from over.