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Senior Night Sentimentality: Jordan Nwora

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What does Louisville’s leading scorer have in store for his final act?

Boston College v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

For four or five months in a normal year, the most heavily criticized person in the city of Louisville tends to be the star of the U of L men’s basketball team.

It’s not a personal thing. It’s not even a conscious thing.

Like bored members of a small city council proposing another unnecessary stop sign, Louisville fans care so much about their team that they seem to feel as though they aren’t doing their job unless they’re overanalyzing every minor detail that could result in the season reaching its maximum level of success. In that situation, the biggest target tends to get hit with the most arrows.

This is the reality Jordan Nwora has lived for two years now.

The path Nwora walks isn’t a new one. It’s one worn down by the claims of selfishness directed at Deng Adel from two years ago, the voiced beliefs that Donovan Mitchell wasn’t ready to be a pro from the year before that, and dozens of other examples from every decade of Cardinal basketball since the program’s rise to prominence.

The reality in virtually all of these cases is that the object of denunciation has been in the midst of an, all things considered, terrific season, and that the team he headlined would hav been significantly worse off without his contributions. The 2019-20 season is certainly no exception.

At 17.9 points per game, Jordan Nwora is currently the second-leading scorer in the ACC. He ranks eighth in the conference in rebounding at 7.4 rpg, fourth in three-point field goals made per game (2.4), fifth in free-throw percentage (.813) and seventh in field goal percentage (.441). Nwora’s also the only player in the history of Louisville basketball to score 30 or more points in a conference game more than once (he’s done it three times), and if the Cardinals wind up playing deep into March, he has a solid chance to finish with one of the 10 best individual scoring seasons in the history of the program.

None of this is to say that Nwora is without flaw or that there isn’t a time and place to discuss those flaws, it’s simply to say that even taking all of those things into consideration ... the guy is pretty f—-ing good.

Nwora will be honored during Sunday’s Senior Day festivities despite only being a junior. This puts him in the same rarified recent air that only includes the quartet of Francisco Garcia, Earl Clark, Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell. All four of those other players were ultimately selected in the first 32 picks of the their respective NBA Drafts. Nwora certainly has a chance to follow suit, but it’s going to take some work.

The best thing for Jordan Nwora’s NBA Draft stock is also the best thing for his Louisville legacy: A memorable March run. The same things the next-level scouts want to see from the junior sharpshooter — two hours of consistent effort, intense pressure defense, making winning plays within the halfcourt offense — are the same things that are going to help lift U of L to marquee victories over the weeks ahead.

March has and always will provide the ultimate recency effect. Tremendous four year careers can be irreparably damaged in two seconds. Forgettable four year careers can become unforgettable thanks solely to a four week surge in production that seemed to come out of nowhere.

The record books are going to hold Jordan Nwora’s name in high-regard forever. That’s already been established. The spot he holds in the collective heart of the U of L fan base will be largely determined by what takes place over the month ahead.

If Nwora is at or near the center of a conference title run in Greensboro and then a trip back to Atlanta in the weeks after that, he’s going to be remembered forever as a beloved champion. The nitpicking that has become more and more prevalent over the past 24 months will evaporate and disappear from the city’s memory the same way it has for a host of Cardinal stars who went out by delivering in March. That might not be fair, but that’s the way it’s always going to be at places who care about college hoops the way Louisville does.

The month can give and the month can take away. Jordan Nwora’s final act as a Louisville Cardinal will be to see how much juice he can squeeze out of the sport’s ripest fruit.