—As most expected, Louisville has gotten involved with Memphis State transfer Emoni Bates. Arkansas, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Kansas, DePaul, Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Oklahoma State, Butler, and Washington State are the other schools to reach out to the former top-rated recruit.
—If you somehow hadn’t seen the news, Villanova head coach Jay Wright is calling it a career at age 60. Former ‘Nova assistant and current Fordham head coach Kyle Neptune will be taking over.
No one has ever been cooler on the sidelines.
Maybe the coolest moment in the history of college basketball coaching pic.twitter.com/VqpdWyok6Q— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) April 20, 2022
—I still don’t fully understand the situation, but Shaedon Sharpe is going to the NBA without ever suiting up for Kentucky and UK fans seem very upset.
—Kyle Tucker attempts to break down the situation for The Athletic here.
—The DJ Wagner to Louisville train continues to gain momentum.
The key variable to watch may be what Payne does with the rest of his coaching staff. He pulled Nolan Smith away from Duke in a what can be best described as a recruiting coup of its own, and one with similar family ties as Nolan’s father, Derek Smith, was a member of the 1980 NCAA championship team. Then the addition of former Wake Forest head coach, and most recently Maryland interim head coach, Danny Manning, added one of most experienced and respected figures in the profession.
While DJ told Travis Branham less than three weeks ago that he didn’t “have a super personal connection” with Payne, the rumor mill has nonetheless been churning that the third spot on Louisville’s staff could go to Milt Wagner — a move that could be a precursor to DJ’s commitment.
The irony of such a move, if it were to come to fruition, would be thick given that Calipari hired Milt at Memphis in 2000 in a move that preceded Dajuan’s commitment.
Of course, Calipari has also lost recruits over the years to that same strategy. Most notably, Cade Cunningham’s commitment to Oklahoma State when his brother, Cannen Cunningham, was added to Mike Boynton’s staff.
While this situation is continuously evolving, my expectation at this point, based on what I’m hearing, is that Milt Wagner joins Payne’s staff at Louisville and his grandson follows him there at some point. It’s far from a sure thing, but enough that I’m making my first Crystal Ball selection in favor of the Cardinals.
If you’re keeping track at home, that’s now four 247 Sports writers and two from Rivals who have logged crystal ball predictions of Wagner to Louisville in the last week.
—Joe Lunardi’s first bracket projection for 2023 does not feature Louisville.
—Louisville is among the schools that has reached out to Duquesne transfer Primo Spears.
Duquesne transfer Primo Spears tells me he has heard from the following schools since entering the portal:— PortalUpdates (@portal_updates) April 21, 2022
Spears, a 6’3 freshman guard, was the leading scorer (12.7 ppg) on a Duequesne team that went 6-24 and won just one Atlantic 10 game last season. He ended the year by scoring 25, 34 and 30 points in his final three games, all narrow losses.
—Lou City took down St. Louis City in 10 rounds of penalty kicks last night to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Joshua Wynder, a 16-year-old from Oldham County, netted the decisive PK. The boys in purple will hit the road to face Detroit City FC with a trip to the Round of 16 on the line.
—The annual Louie Awards were last night. You can find a list of the winners here.
—I want it up high, man.
—Recent history says if you’re a solid women’s basketball player at Syracuse, you’re probably going to finish your career at Louisville. Chrislynn Carr, who averaged over 14 ppg last season, is the latest to make the move.
—Louisville Report takes an updated look at the U of L women’s basketball roster for next season.
—The U of L track and field team is headed to the Indiana Invitational this weekend.
—U of L has offered Kylan Fox (2024), a 4-star tight end out of Georgia.
—I appreciate the dozens of people who have sent me this today. I have seen it. It is fitting.
—Gary Parrish of CBS writes about the sudden retirement of Jay Wright.
—The U of L men’s tennis team is up to No. 23 in the latest ITA rankings.
—The Louisville softball team has a tall task ahead of it this weekend as it hits the road to face No. 3 Virginia Tech.
—Former U of L strength coach Andy Kettler has accepted the same position at Xavier.
—I see everyone posting their pictures with Sydney Curry these days. Of course the man Syd wants his picture with is Kenny Klein.
—Nolan Smith will be tossing out the first pitch at tonight’s Louisville Bats game.
—Here’s a good video from 2019 on Justin Perez, the man widely rumored to be Kenny Payne’s first director of basketball operations.
—Former U of L volleyball star Tori Dilfer has signed a contract to play in Italy next season for Bartoccini-Fortinfissi Perugia.
—Jeff Greer’s latest Floyd Street Tribune newsletter focuses on the significant Louisville basketball rebrand taking place under Kenny Payne.
Get used to not knowing what Payne is going to do until it’s announced. Danny Manning’s name never came up — not once — in any conversations I had with U of L or hoops industry sources in the weeks leading up to his hire. Not a single mention. Manning’s name only surfaced the day of the announcement. Do you realize how difficult it is to keep people in sports from gossiping? That just appears to be the Payne Way. Everything is zipped up, very close to the chest. He moves in silence. And in a time in American life when people share way too much about themselves on social media and want to know everything about their favorite teams, moving in silence is both different and cool. It just is.
Nolan Smith’s hire certainly added to the vibe. Smith, a former Duke star and NBA player, is an up-and-coming basketball coach who was perceived as the young, cool guy on Duke’s staff. The addition of Manning, one of the all-time greatest players in college basketball history, enhanced the coolness factor. Add in Perez and the proximity to Jay-Z and Roc Nation and, well, it’s a move that takes everything to a new level.
A program that was cool in the 1980s — heck, one of its biggest stars was nicknamed the Iceman — has rekindled that energy. There was a swagger about those teams, and it all started with the coach. Denny Crum talked his trash. He let his players express themselves. And he cultivated an environment that attracted recruits and won games.
Who knows what Kenny Payne’s record will be at Louisville? We’ll find out soon enough. But you have to be able to land high-end talent if you want to compete at the highest level of college basketball, and to get high-end talent, you need a high-end staff. So far, at least from the outside looking in, Payne has achieved that.
Now the talent needs to start rolling in to match the vibe.
Then the vibes have to become wins. But you can’t take all those steps without taking the first ones.
—You can find the full soundtrack for Saturday’s Thunder Over Louisville here.
—The city of Louisville honored Bellarmine for its 2022 A-Sun tournament title.
—Rob Phinisee is transferring from Indiana to Cincinnati, where I can only assume he will immediately be trademarking “Phincinnati.”
—And finally, the Mike Rutherford Show is reacting to all the news of the day from 3-6 on 1450 The Big X. You can stream the show here.