Well it finally happened. Russ Smith is the 65th player to score his 1,000th point in a University of Louisville uniform. Just like we all predicted. But this 1,000 point scorer is different than all the rest. He wasn't just a solid contributor that stayed all four years and had the milestone fall in his lap. He wasn't the superstar talent that came in from day one starting and dominating for a couple of seasons either. No, Russdiculous has always been different, and that includes his imprint in the UofL record books. But after Wednesday night's win on DePaul Day, I wonder where he ranks in a category that isn't just strictly numbers. Where does Russ Smith rank all time as a scorer in Louisville history?
It's truly amazing what Russ has done so far in his Louisville career. Going from injury-plagued, sure-thing transfer to Louisville leading scorer as well as 2nd in the Big East behind Bryce Cotton (Seriously, how every big time program in the country whiff on Bryce Cotton?). But it isn't just about the stats, being a scorer means possessing a few key attributes including but not nearly limited to:
- Getting in the lane and finishing at the rim/drawing the foul:
- Being able to shoot both at a spot or off the dribble.
- Maneuvering through traffic and having the vision to see the play before it happens.
- Having a go to move that creates enough space to get off a shot.
- Finishing plays at the stripe.
Russ Smith possesses a lot of skills that make him an excellent scorer. He, in my completely biased opinion, is the quickest guy listed at least at 6 foot in the country. Trying to keep him out of the lane without help is an absolute nightmare. And once he puts it in high gear and gets into the lane he attacks the basket hard whether it be drawing a foul or using his outstanding body control to work the ball into the basket with a crazy shot that earned him the permanent interrobang after his name. He also posesses the most confidence I've seen from a Louisville player in the past couple years. Nothing phases him. He could be 0-10 and still be attacking and shooting just as frequently as if he was 10-10. Finally, he hits his free throws. At one point between the Seton Hall and DePaul games he had hit a number in the teens worth of free throws in a row. But how does Russ compare with former Cardinals? Well, let's start at the top.
Nobody in Louisville history has ever scored like Dr. Dunkenstein himself. Darrell Griffith holds the record for most career points in a Louisville uniform at 2,333 points and is 3rd all-time in career PPG at 18.5. He did that in a mere 126 games which is incredible by today's standards where teams can play over 30 games in the regular season alone. His 825 points in 1980 will likely never be topped by a Louisville player even with all the extra games. His freak athleticism aided him in getting easy points via the slam dunk. In today's day and age of leaving early and jumping for the coin, nobody will probably ever pass the doctor on the all-time scoring list. Oh and of course, there was no such thing as a 3 point shot in college when he played at UofL.
Louisville has a knack for producing scorers, huh? DeJuan was one of the last jewels of the Denny Crum era. The guy could just flat out play the game of basketball. Not only is he #2 all-time on the scoring list at Louisville but he was the first player in NCAA history with atleast 2,000 points, 450 assists, 300 3-point field goals, and 200 steals. My next door neighbor always talks about how when he was younger and Wheat was at UofL, every now and then he would play pick up games with us mere mortals. He said Wheat would just show up and score 50. No doubt most of those points coming from behind the arc with his silky smooth jumper.
Reece was a very good player on some very bad teams, by Louisville standards anyways. But man could he score, especially in clutch situations. Everyone remembers the Tennessee game and the Marquette game. He had a tremendous combination of size and speed that made him almost impossible to guard. He thrived after the team transitioned to CRP's style of ball, finishing third all-time in 3-point field goals and fourth on the all-time scoring list. Watching him score upwards of 37 points while carrying his teams is what made him such a lethal scorer. Everybody knew who was the player to stop on the floor, but still couldn't do it.
Milt was also one of the "Doctors of Dunk" during the early 1980's teams. An athletic guard with great size for his position, he lead Louisville to 3 different final fours. Most people remember him as "Ice" for his ability to make the game winning play in crunch time. Playing in 144 games in his career which is the 2nd most in school history, Milt had 3 seasons of over 500 points in his career. If there is anybody in Louisville history that I would want on the line shooting two to win the game, it would definitely be
Montrezl Harrell Milt Wagner.
Another hometown great, and arguably the best Louisville player of all time along with Griffith, Wes put up crazy numbers at UofL. He averaged a solid 20.6 PPG (1st all-time) and a freakish 18.9 RPG (also 1st all-time) in just 82 games at the varsity level. At 6'7" Wes wasn't a vertical terror but more than made up for it by being an athletic freak. He was just a physical player that outworked everyone for his success. His sheer will to win is what made him such a great player and scorer. He also had easily the best pro career of any UofL player in history.
"Never Nervous" never failed to show up for Louisville. He is still the only player to ever score 2,000 points and collect 1,000 rebounds for their career at UofL. Pervis a lot like all the other top scorers in Louisville history was very physically gifted. At 6'9" he could really climb the ladder. He got a lot of easy points due to his high volume dunking in games. He is the all-time leader in dunks in one game (7), dunks in one season (59), and dunks in a career (162). He also had a great turn around jumper to go with other post moves.
So where does Russ fit in with all of these scoring greats? Well let's analyze the season he is currently having.. In 28 games, he has 515 points. If Louisville plays as many games as they did last year (extremely possible) and Russ continues his current pace (also extremely possible) than he will finish with 736 points for the year. To put that into perspective, that would make it the second highest scoring season in UofL history and would rank in the top 10 nationally in any year in the past decade. That's impressive, especially when you think about that total giving him 1,223 in basically 2 years of basketball. If he were to come back next year and put up similar numbers, that would put him in the top 5 on UofL's scoring list all-time. Think about that for a second. Russ Smith less than 2 years ago was almost out the door, and now he's statistically one of the best scorers in Louisville history? To me it's not just statistics though, I think Russ is in the conversation with all the rest. And here we are celebrating him scoring his 1,000th point unlike any other player. Just like we all predicted.
Per rickmbari's request I have decided to give the per 40 minutes career scoring average for the best former Cardinals scorers along with our beloved Russ Smith. Unfortunately for Wes Unseld, Charlie Tyra, or even Butch Beard, I cannot find any record of the amount of minutes they played in their career as Cardinals so they cannot be included. But if I had to guess I would say Wes is the highest in Louisville history considering he has the highest career PPG of all-time and had 1,686 points in just 3 varsity seasons. The minimum to be listed was at least 1,000 points and 12.5 career PPG average.
- Darrell Griffith: 23.96
- DeJuan Wheat: 19.15
- Reece Gaines: 19.72
- Milt Wagner: 18.14
- Wes Unseld: 20.6 (PPG)
- Charlie Tyra: 18.2 (PPG)
- Butch Beard: 19.0 (PPG)
- Pervis Ellison: 19.77
- Derek Smith: 19.44
- Taquan Dean: 18.56
- Marques Maybin: 19.98
- Wesley Cox: 19.17
- Francisco Garcia: 20.52
- Clifford Rozier: 21.31
- Dwayne Morton: 20.28
Russ Smith: 22.73 (Through the Syracuse game)
As you can see, Russ is pretty good at putting the ball in the basket compared to even the greatest Cardinals.