It’s been decades since I declared for myself that John Barleycorn must die.
Yet every once in awhile, white lightning will still affect my day.
Like Saturday, when the Bourbon Half Marathon caused some street closings. Which meant I couldn’t take my normal route to the Yum!
Which is far from a Woe is Me moment. But said nonsense did allow for one of my self indulgent ledes.
Truth: It was great to be back in the gym after a 19 month absence. Last season was the first since 1952 that I didn’t attend at least one U of L hoops game in person. Usually it was way way more.
But, hey, who’s keeping score.
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A couple of sidenotes, before I weigh in with some anecdotal observations about the ‘21-’22 Cardinals on the court.
The new scoreboard is H U M O N G O U S. Outlandishly, 21st C, hey look at what we can do huge. The video is pretty dang crystalline. It didn’t provide any stats, but one must assume that’s because the whole video update at the Yum! is far from complete.
Perhaps the coolest part of the day — other than actually getting to watch my Cardinals play basketball live and in person — came when the Dr. Amy Acklin-directed Pep Band broke into Weather Report’s “Birdland.”
What an appropriate, outside the box, just plain cool song to hear during warm ups. “Hard charts,” she advised, when I walked over to give her and the band a thumbs up.
Lots of former Cards in the house, including Coach Denny Crum. Grif. Jason Osborne, father of current Cardinal, JJ Traynor. Keith Williams. Reece Gaines. Marques Maybin. I think I also spied Bill Darragh, who played for U of L in the mid 50s. I trust there were others.
One of the refs was John Boylan, a friend of mine. Chatting with him courtside before the game, I was reminded of my favorite chatting with a ref before a game story.
Before a tilt years ago in Freedom Hall, I was talking with Tim Higgins. Some fan behind us yelled, “Call ‘em fair tonight, Higgins.” To which the white-haired zebra deadpanned, “Why should tonight be any different?”
All the warmup balls were brand spanking new.
The 174 time national champion Ladybirds (actually 20 time) are younger than ever.
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Given all the newcomers, you can’t tell the players without a program.
Literally. I had to stand there during warmups, with the roster figuring out who was whom.
The game was oddly three 10 minute periods. Lineups were mix and match.
The most noticeable on the court change from last season. No surprise, the tempo was significantly amped up. The Cards play much faster. Which fans have come to expect given the hire of “offense savant” Ross McMains.
Juco transfer El Ellis still has some settling in to do. He’s quick and made several nifty, very swift drives to the hole, ending in crafty dimes for scores to a cutter. Not sure about his outside shooting.
Former Thundering Herder Jarrod West was solid, hit a couple of treys in Period I.
Mason Faulkner was a DNP.
Jae’Lyn Withers is obviously more comfortable full-time at the 4.
Who would have guessed? Everybody.
Gabe Wiznitzer and Dre Davis are significantly slimmed down.
As cerebral as he may be, and as much as Coach Mack seems enamored with him, Gabe still doesn’t have great footwork. Doc suggests he take ballet lessons, like Felton Spencer did to become more fluid.
There was lots of posting up and backing down by the bigs. Better rotations to the hoop by others on the court.
Also, some early threes just after getting the ball into the front court. All of which seem within the context of the speeded up O.
Here’s what I like about Sydney Curry. He’s a load. Still working himself fully into shape, he can dominate down low. During the first sequence he was in the game, he blocked a shot by Roosevelt Wheeler (who has a long way to go). On the ensuing offensive possession, Curry scored underneath on a great feed from Matt Cross. On the next trip, Curry snared an offensive rebound and followed for two.
Fundamentally sound Curry played his prep ball in Fort Wayne. Need I remind my readers how much I love former Hoosier prepsters, because the level of HS coaching across the Ohio is generally a cut above?
He reminds Doc of former Cardinal Alex Sanders, who averaged 10+, 10+ and 11+ over three seasons. I’ll take it, along with 5-8 RB.
Malik Williams showed no lingering effects from his injuries. But he does pull his shorts up really tight, like old school. Some fellow sitting behind Doc (whom I hung with during part of the scrimmage, and whose expertise I’ve gathered afterwards) yelled at the Cards’ pivot, “Leave your hot pants at home.”
His game Saturday was unassuming, but Noah Locke looks solid at both ends, way more than simply a shooter.
Which brings me to Matt Cross. With the caveat that it was simply an intrasquad scrimmage, with almost a month left before the season, I’ll say this. It wouldn’t surprise me if he challenges Withers as scoring leader. The former Hurricane, who torched Louisville last season, is a scorer, not merely a shooter. There’s a difference.
Next: Kentucky State. Exhi. 10/29.
— c d kaplan