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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

My girl Hazel Ann is ready and eager to watch the Cards take down NC State tonight.

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NET Rankings Update: No. 109 (up 1)

Baby steps all the way to the top, folks.

—BC Interruption recaps Boston College’s Wednesday night loss inside the Yum Center.

—It’s a monster matchup tonight in Raleigh where No. 3 Louisville will be taking on No. 4 NC State at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. Here’s the U of L preview of the showdown.

—The ladies are ready.

—Louisville-BC highlights are here.

—Backing the Pack previews tonight’s top five matchup in Raleigh.

—Jeff Greer spends the bulk of his latest U of L hoops newsletter telling his favorite Russ Smith stories.

There is, of course, the 60th birthday “present” he gave Pitino — a text message photo of Grey Goose and a video of two men jousting with samurai swords. Not sure why but that is absolutely hilarious. He also wore Cookie Monster PJs to team film sessions and a Ritz-Carlton robe to a team meeting on the road.

Just after he’d moved on to the pros, Russ and I got lunch. I’d heard all the stories about Pitino’s famous staredowns in practice, the fear of the treadmill punishments, how no one wanted to be in the building the day after losses, etc. Well, Russ knew all of them and more, and he’d certainly experienced them himself, but ultimately decided that there had to be more to Pitino than that. So, he just started popping into his coach’s office, like Elaine swinging by Jerry’s place. Just to say what’s up to a Hall of Famer. How’re you doing? What’d you think about issue X or news event Y? After a week or so of visits, Pitino caught on and told him he could stop at any time. Of course, Russ persisted. No other former player, Reece Gaines said recently, lights up Pitino’s face like Russ.

But there were also so many moments of vulnerability. I’ll never forget the genuine pain and frustration in his voice talking to us after going 47th in the NBA Draft. He took responsibility for the gut-punch of a loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and delivered some famously empathetic, heartfelt words — his voice cracked in the locker room during interviews. After a long chat with him in 2014 at the practice facility, he and I parted ways because he had practice. He knew I had more questions — the conversation ended abruptly — so he got my cellphone number and called back later that day. Very few people do that in general, let alone with reporters.

I’ve enjoyed learning about and writing about so many athletes over my 13 years doing this, from Donovan Mitchell and Damion Lee to Anas Mahmoud and Deng Adel. None of them — and I really liked those guys — was as magnetic as Russ. A must-watch player (1 on 5 is advantage Russ) and an enthralling figure. There will never be another like him, and after Saturday, he’ll always be No. 2 for Louisville.

—The biggest story out of Wednesday night’s win over Boston College has to be the play of Jae’Lyn Withers.

—Last night in the ACC:

Virginia Tech 62, NC State 59
Wake Forest 80, Georgia Tech 64
Virginia 66, Pittsburgh 61

—The U of L women’s golf team took down Kentucky in the Battle of the Bluegrass.

—Absolutely horrendous foul call to decide a game here.

Just happy Ron Harper Jr. is ok after that assault attempt.

—Four-star PG Desmond Claude will be announcing his college decision this afternoon at 3:30. Kansas, Xavier, Louisville and Memphis are his finalists, and the Musketeers seem to be the most likely to land his services.

—U of L is scheduled to host another 4-star PG from the 2022 class, Amaree Abram, this weekend. A former Texas A&M commit, Abram also has offers from Maryland, Texas Tech and Xavier, among others.

—Matt Norlander’s court report feature for CBS is always a good read.

—Dana O’Neil’s read on what the hell has happened to the Pitt basketball program (Athletic link) is also worth your time.

—Gonna miss Dom.

—The podcast from yesterday’s Mike Rutherford Show is here. I chatted with Russ Smith about this weekend’s celebration, and Scotty D served up three-month-old John Rutherford’s first scholarship offer.

—Auburn is No. 1 in The Athletic’s latest college hoops power rankings.

—Rutgers DB transfer Elijah Clark has received a U of L offer. Clark was a 4-star prospect coming out of high school.

—This is cool.

—The U of L men’s tennis team kicked off its season with wins over Bellarmine and Dayton. The Cards now hit the road to take on Northwestern and Kentucky.

—The U of L men’s and women’s swim and five teams will host UK on Saturday.

—Five-star class of 2023 standout Jared McCain is one of the biggest names in high school basketball, and he had some solid praise for Louisville in this Adam Zagoria story about McCain’s top college options.

Then there’s Houston and Louisville, the two schools that hosted McCain for his first-ever official visits in the fall.

First came the Louisville trip from September 17-19, a visit well-detailed in his first installment of the “What official visits are really like” video series released in late-September.

During his time at Louisville, McCain spent time with the coaches breaking down film of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry before attending the Cardinals’ annual Louisville Live preseason preview event.

“They had posters for me and for all the recruits,” he said. “Just getting out there, seeing how I would play in their system, how involved coach is with all the players. It was super dope to see. That was a really cool experience.”

It’s hard to see McCain signing with someone other than Duke or Gonzaga, but the praise is still nice to hear.

—The Betty White Challenge helped the Kentucky Humane Society raise nearly $40k.

—Oldham County WR/CB Justin Ruffin Jr. (2024) has been offered by Louisville.

—Terry’s on fire.

—The CJ’s Cam Teague talked with ESPN’s Kelly Gramlich about tonight’s showdown between Louisville and NC State.

—Louisville volleyball star Tori Dilfer talks with Dalton Pence over at Cardinal Sports Zone about playing for U of L and her “dream come true.”

—I’d say new U of L safety MJ Griffin being as fast as Tyler Harrell is a good early sign for the 2022 Cardinal secondary.

—Three-star LB Jamal Anderson (2023) from Georgia has picked up a U of L offer. Anderson is the son of the former Atlanta Falcons RB of the same name.

—Louisville Report looks at the football team’s biggest remaining needs from the transfer portal.

—Hearing everyone’s Russ Smith stories is going to be the best part of the next 48 hours.

—The University of Michigan has agreed to a $490 million settlement with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by a former sports doctor at the school during his nearly four-decade career.

—Four-star WR Malik Elzy (2023) from Chicago has picked up a Louisville offer.

—Four-star RB Javin Simpkins (2023) from Miami has stated that he’ll be taking an unofficial visit to U of L on Jan. 29.

—All my homies hate Will Wade.

‘Bama took down LSU, 70-67.

—The Starting 502 Podcast recaps last night’s win over BC.

—Here’s everything Chris Mack had to say after the win.

—Congrats to Mercy Academy junior Lily Swan on winning the Derby Museum’s Horsing Around With Art contest.

—Congratulations to Carlik Jones on being named the G League Player of the Week.

Texas Legends guard Carlik Jones has been named the NBA G League Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 10-Jan. 16, the league announced today. Jones put up averages of 32.5 points, 10.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game as the Legends went 2-0 on the week. He tallied career-highs in points (42) and assists (10) against the Santa Cruz Warriors on Saturday.

Jones, an undrafted rookie out of Louisville, has earned a pair of 10-day contracts already this G League season, first with the Dallas Mavericks, then with the Denver Nuggets. He scored his first NBA points with the Mavericks in their win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 27.

Jones has been a key piece for the Legends so far this regular season as well as during the Showcase Cup. He averaged 20.2 points in his 10 games played between the Cup and Winter Showcase. Texas is 3-0 in games Jones has played, including last night’s win over the Oklahoma City Blue. He scored 25 points and had nine assists on 9-14 shooting.

—The CJ’s Brett Dawson lays out his top five Russ Smith moments at Louisville.

—Eric Crawford writes that the Jeff Walz way still has Louisville in the national spotlight.

—And finally, beat NC State.