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Player spotlights: Steven Enoch, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon

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Three veterans will try to help guide Louisville to Atlanta this season.

NIT Season Tip-Off Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Player Spotlight: Steven Enoch

Class: Senior

Position: Center

Height: 6’10

Weight: 255

Hometown: Norwalk, CT

When Steven Enoch decided to return to the University of Louisville for his senior season, it gave the Cardinals a dominant force in the paint on the offensive end. Enoch is a contender for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award, which is given to the best center in college basketball. Andy Katz has him tabbed as the fifth favorite to win the award.

Last season, Enoch averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 19.2 minutes per game. He was splitting time with Malik Williams, who logged 18.2 minutes per game himself. He scored a career-high 22 points against Boston College and recorded his first career double-double at North Carolina with 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Cards beat the Tar Heels 83-62.

In 34 games played last season, Enoch had three or more fouls in 18 of those contests. This is also a reason that his minutes were split with Malik Williams. He just couldn’t stay on the floor in some games without being in foul trouble. To combat this, Williams started the last 20 games and Enoch came off the bench. That obviously helps to keep Enoch from picking up two early fouls, but he still got himself into trouble in some of those games.

Make no mistake about it. Louisville has one of the best centers in the country in Steven Enoch. He can be dominant in the paint. He can finish with his right or left in the post. His footwork before he gets the ball is incredible. He puts himself in such a good spot that when he catches the ball, he is ready to score. We saw it so many times last year when he and Jordan Nwora played the high-low game. The big guy can even step out and shoot the three, as he did so at 35.9% last season. For comparison, Ryan McMahon was 35.3% from behind the arc. Enoch made 14/39 attempts on the year.

One of the issues on offense was when the ball went inside, it rarely came back out. Some stats don’t lie, and this is one of them. Enoch had six assists all of last season. Just six. That’s kind of hard to believe. With so much attention on him when he catches the ball, shooters should be open around him. If he has a one-on-one matchup in the post, of course he can score. But after that, when teams start to double down on him, kick it out to shooters to knock them down. Then the defense will have some decisions to make. Do they leave shooters open or do they leave Enoch with just one defender on him? Either way, the big man will have to recognize what the defense is deciding to do and make the right read. If he can do that, the assists should go way up.

So my keys for Steven Enoch this season are to recognize how the defense is playing him, have that dominant mentality, and keep himself out of foul trouble so he can be on the floor to do the first things that were mentioned.

Player Spotlight: Ryan McMahon

Class: Senior

Position: Guard

Height: 6’0

Weight: 185

Hometown: Sarasota, FL

Ryan McMahon has become one of the biggest fan-favorites in the last few years. Of course Louisville fans love anyone that can knock down three pointers like McMahon can, but we also love the underdog who has to work his way into significant playing time.

When he got to UofL from Sarasota, FL (did you know that Dick Vitale discovered him?), he was just a scrawny little guy that a lot of us probably thought would never become a big contributor to the team. Being able to knock down shots in high school is one thing, but how would he be able to do it at this level? Would he be able to get open at all? There were doubts for sure. And while there are still some games that are bad matchups for him, Ryan McMahon has proven that if you can shoot, you can play. You don’t have to be 6’5. You may just have to work harder to get open. And you better know how to catch and shoot because you won’t have much time to get that shot off. It also helps to have range several feet behind the line, which he does.

His best game as a Cardinal was early last season against Michigan State when he scored 24 points and hit clutch shots to help the Cards win 82-78 in overtime, giving Chris Mack his first signature win as head coach for Louisville. He was 4/7 from three and 12/13 from the free throw line.

Speaking of free throws, McMahon shot 95% from the line last season, connecting on 57 of 60 on the year. His last miss was on January 6. He would go on to make his next 21 attempts of the season. That’s pretty reliable.

At this point, we all know what we are getting with McMahon. There are going to be games where he struggles on defense because of his size. There may be teams that do everything they can to take him away on offense, but that should leave someone else open. He brings veteran leadership of course. I mean he is 23 years old. He is a sharp shooter who can change the game in a hurry. He can pass the ball and run the offense when needed. His 1.8 assists per game last season were third behind only Christen Cunningham (4.8) and Dwayne Sutton (1.9).

A lot of size or not, Ryan McMahon is just a really good basketball player and a great leader for this team. We are lucky to have him in his 8th collegiate season.

Player Spotlight: Dwayne Sutton

Class: Senior

Position: Forward

Height: 6’5

Weight: 220

Hometown: Louisville, KY (Manual)

When some players aren’t scoring their normal amount of points or grabbing their average number of rebounds, you notice it because the rest of their game suffers. This is the complete opposite of how Dwayne Sutton plays. Whether he scores two points or 15 points in a game, his effort remains the same: top notch. It is no surprise that Sutton earned one of the captain spots for this season, as voted on by his teammates.

He started all 34 games last season and averaged 10 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. He did this in 31.4 minutes per game, which I think may have been his only downfall.

With the way that Sutton plays, which is all effort all the time, I believe those minutes ended up catching up with him later in the season. In the last 10 games of the season, he averaged 7.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.4 steals per game. For the season, he shot 34.8% from three. In those last 10 games, it was 22.2% (10/45). Maybe we can see those minutes in the 25-30 range early on and then ramp them up later on if needed.

I can’t just harp on the end of the season for Sutton. Check out this five-game stretch in the ACC with four of the teams being ranked.

-at Wake: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals

-vs (9) UNC: 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals

-at (11) VT: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists

-at (22) FSU: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

-vs (2) Duke: 15 points, 6 rebounds

I’m not breaking news here. We all know how important Dwayne Sutton is to this team’s success. He can literally do it all. When shots aren’t falling for other guys, he can score. If big guys are in foul trouble, he can get in there and rebound. Offense is stagnant? He can distribute the ball. If none of those things are working for him, he is going to play his tail off and give you everything he has.

With the depth that the Cards should have this season, let’s pay attention to see if Sutton gets more breaks to keep that tank full for later in the season. He is too important to this team to run out of gas.