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Louisville basketball player preview: Jordan Nwora

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The junior is back for a season where many expect him to be an All-American.

Notre Dame v Louisville

Player Spotlight: Jordan Nwora

Class: Junior

Position: Forward

Height: 6’7

Weight: 225

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Preseason ACC Player of the Year. Preseason Associated Press All-American. Preseason first-team All-American by CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Athlon, and the Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. The preseason accolades are there. The expectations are high. Now we will get to see if Jordan Nwora lives up to those billings and if the Louisville Cardinals can make a Final Four run in 2019-20.

The junior led the Cards last season in points (17.9), rebounds (7.6), steals, (0.9) and minutes (31.9) per game. The guy can flat out score and he does so in a multitude of ways. He can obviously knock down the three. He made 77 last season and the next closest on the team was Ryan McMahon with 53. That means he also scored 121 baskets from inside the arc, so he is not just one-dimensional on offense. He uses his size to score in the post on smaller defenders and he also has a good mid-range game. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Jordan Nwora is really good on offense and he loves that end of the floor.

Now that I have pointed out the good, which is obvious, I must also point out the weaknesses. Those are on-ball defense and ball handling. Yes, he led the team in steals, but a lot of that comes from off-ball defense where you jump the passing lane and get the steal, not necessarily just taking it from your guy. So the defense I am talking about is when he guards someone with the ball. There were countless times that he just got beat off the dribble and his man either scored or passed to an open man that scored, and that guy was open because a defender had to help because Nwora got beat. He has to get better at this. It starts with being in your defensive stance and being active. As an opposing coach last season, I would have said to attack him every time because it looks like he just can’t wait to get back on offense.

Next up is his ball handling. All of those stats from earlier that he was the team leader of are great, but he also led the team in turnovers with 2.4 per game. This looks even worse when you see that he only dished out 1.3 assists per game, which was fifth on the team. In the last 11 games of the season, he had seven assists and 27 turnovers. He scored a lot of points, but those numbers are not good.

This was from a combination of things. Careless passes, trying to do too much with the ball, or the defense just keying in on him because they knew that he would try to do too much and make a mistake. He’s going to be the best player on the floor almost every night. He needs to understand that it’s alright to pass the ball and then work to get open for an even better look. Your teammates will find you. Pass the ball and screen for someone else. Maybe they knock down a shot and then that opens you up on the next possession. I would love to see that assist to turnover ratio flipped around this season. It wouldn’t be drastic number-wise, but it would be drastic in what it would do for this team.

During his freshman season, we saw glimpses of what he could do on offense, but he didn’t play much and it was because he didn’t guard anyone. Last season, we really saw his offensive game, but his full game was incomplete. Will his junior season be the one where it all comes together and he is dominant on both offense and defense? If that is the case, then Louisville could make their way back to Atlanta.

Now, after what may have been too much negativity for some, I will end on a positive. I do think Jordan Nwora fixes what needs to be fixed in his game. I think he got feedback from the NBA that he was not expecting and it was a wake up call to clean some things up. There is a natural jump in progression from your sophomore to junior year. Last year he was the most improved player in the conference and now he is already the preseason player of the year. He won’t be the same player as last year; he will be better. I do believe that.

The preseason hype is alive and well. Now I am ready to see Jordan Nwora on those postseason awards lists.