Another Derby Festival Classic has come and gone, giving Louisville fans their first glimpse of their latest crop of newcomers, and giving the incoming group of Cardinal freshmen their first taste of playing in the Ville. The next time we see these guys will now be over the summer during the team's trip abroad and in brief glimpses of intrasquad scrimmage highlights.
The two nights of action inside Freedom Hall this weekend pretty much confirmed what we thought we knew about this class already.
Ryan McMahon can light it up from the outside, but the other facets of his game might not be ready for this level just yet. Ray Spalding is still a bit of a mystery, which means he'll fit in perfectly with the crop of big men already on the roster. Deng Adel has the potential to help immediately and might even have a chance to earn a starting spot at the 3 if he takes to Pitino ball better than most freshmen do this summer. Donovan Mitchell has the potential to be an absolute star here.
I've never really tried to hide the fact that events like this, and recruiting in general, are far from my favorite things in the world, but let's recap the 5 biggest takeaways from the weekend that was at the KDF Classic.
1. The team with the Louisville players lost
Not that it really mattered. Neither side was particularly interested in playing defense, which led to the Purple Team pulling out a 127-119 win in what amounted to a de facto dunk/open jump shot contest.
If that's not really your cup of tea, you aren't alone.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino tells me he had to "pull the plug" on the Derby Classic live stream "watching that type of defense. Disgusting"— Jody Demling (@jdemling) April 12, 2015
The one player who did seem committed to making a statement on the defensive end was Mitchell, who was named the MVP of the White Team. He finished with 21 points, 6 steals, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, and appeared to be having an absolute ball in the process.
Adel was also a standout, scoring 20 points in a variety of manners, as well as recording 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. As often tends to be the case for big men in All-Star games, Ray Spalding seemed to struggle to find his place (feeding the post at these things is like throwing a curve ball in a Home Run Derby), and finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds. McMahon struggled with his shot, connecting on just 1 of 8 from the field and finishing with 3 points and a pair of assists.
2. Mitchell won the dunk contest
We already knew he could fly, but man ....
There will still be dunks at the KFC Yum Center next winter.
3. Mitchell also has the infectious personality we're used to
When you hear Donovan Mitchell talk and when you watch him on the court, he reminds you a lot of those Cardinal players who have captured the city's collective heart in recent years.
Mitchell played the way Louisville fans want to see their guys play, and he spent the rest of the weekend saying all the right things. When the game was over on Saturday, he also gave away nearly all of his gear to kids in the stands.
There are no guarantees when you have as much turnover as Louisville's going to have heading into 2015-16, but I really and truly believe that this era of good feelings is going to continue, and Mitchell is going to be one of the biggest reasons why.
4. McMahon set a three-point contest record, but didn't win the whole thing
In the preliminary round of the KDF three-point shooting contest, Ryan McMahon set a record by connecting on 17 of 25 attempts for a total of 26 points. He then came in second place in Saturday's finals, falling to Notre Dame-bound Matt Ryan.
Still, if there were any doubts about McMahon's ability to light it up from the outside (if he's open), he put those to bed this weekend.
It's also always nice to hear Joey Wagner in midseason form.
5. The kids seemed to really enjoy it
In the end, that's all that really matters.
It was great seeing all the fans and my future teammates this weekend! Awesome experience, and I can't wait to get back!! #GoCards— Ryan McMahon (@RyanMcMahon_14) April 12, 2015
When I shook hands and said "Congrats Captain" to Mangok Mathiang; he responded "I have to be a leader."— Jody Demling (@jdemling) April 12, 2015
For all the fans that I didn't get to sign autographs for I'm sorry and I will get you guys when I get back #CardNation— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) April 12, 2015
Louisville recruit Deng Adel here for Derby Classic. Says Cards fans will like his versatility. pic.twitter.com/06Qmt2zKFm— rickbozich (@rickbozich) April 9, 2015
So @spidadmitchell gave away almost all his gear to kids tonight and asked if he could stay in Louisville. Already my fave player on team— Michael Gesler (@MichaelGesler) April 12, 2015