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There Shall Be Cardinal Hoops: Scrimmage Report

All I wanted to observe at U of L’s Red/ White scrimmage was a reason to believe.

Some visual evidence that there would be actual University of Louisville quality hoops on the hardwood this season.

Some legit hope that, if not yet in the upper echelon, the Cardinals would again be a playah.

To that I shall attest.

It’s early. Duh. How the team will coalesce is yet to be determined. But . . .

. . . I gotta tell ya, this diehard, who has always believed that last season was, to use horse racing parlance, a throwaway, couldn’t stop smiling.

It did not take but a couple of minutes up and down the court to know how significantly better the talent is. From top to bottom.

More importantly, there was movement. The offense started immediately. Players off the ball cutting constantly. Constant passing. With a purpose. Always toward the hoop. Or for a kickout three.

Defenders communicating. Moving their feet. Staying attached.

* * * * *

By the first timeout, there had already been three or four things we didn’t see last year.*

I’ve been getting on my pal Gym Eyes in recent weeks, for comparing what he’s seeing at practice to last season. And here I find myself doing it. It is the baseline, I suppose.

Tre White — thank you Bronny James for going to Southern Cal — was the best player on the court Wednesday night. Not a PG, but with a confident handle took it to the hoop through traffic for a layup.

(He was not the only non-PG to do that throughout. Curtis Williams. Koron Davis. Mike James. JJ Traynor. And, of course, Skyy Clark and Ty-Laur Johnson. None of whom even one time dribbled the ball off their foot.)

Also during that opening span, Manny Ekorafor and Curtis Williams worked a give and go. The receiver immediately cut to the basket. But, so did the passer, who took a dumpoff for an easy two.

Then there was White’s clever pass underneath to Dennis Evans for a two-hand backhand slam.

Again all those aspects of the game we remember from Cardinal hoops of yesteryear came in the first couple minutes of action.

* * * * *

What I saw was confidence.

Ballers who didn’t let some adversity stop them from competing.

Williams and Kaleb Glenn didn’t make a hoop in the opening half.

After the break, they both had runs.

Glenn took it hard to the lane against the bigs. Faked and powered in a deuce. Next trip down, he took a skip pass from Clark for a spot up triple. (Yes, I said “skip pass.” There were several to great effect. A couple from Johnson, who can really see the court.)

After the break, Williams was 4/6 from the field.

There are four or five fellows, at least, with the skills to bring the ball up court, who did at various junctures bring it into the frontcourt and institute the offense.

* * * * *

When the ball went up, guys went to the boards. Both offensive and defensive.

There were 25 offensive rebounds in the game. Twenty Five.

There was good placement. Guys were where they were supposed to be to receive the rock.

* * * * *

There seemed to be a lot of deflections.

The guys know each other’s tendencies. Plus it was their first public performance. (In front of a surprisingly large contingent of fans.)

And, this gang plays defense.

* * * * *

OK, I gotta wax poetic.

Of Dennis Evans, and with apologies to Barry McGuire, I would say to future foes who take it to the rim . . .

. . . I’ll tell you over and over again my friend/ Ah, you don’t believe you’re on the eve of disruption.

Evans is tall and long and spindly with matchstick legs with cozies wrapped around his knock knees. But he is agile, coordinated, aware, and loves to block shots.

And, be still my beating heart, He Wears Glasses. Old school.

My first nickname of the year: Evans is The Disruptor.

When I texted that to my pal Doc, he replied “Dennis the Denier.”

Whatever, from such hopeful first looks does silliness ensue.

* * * * *

JJ Traynor is thicker and stronger. Still fearless. He banged his knee late and came out the game.

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who is considerably more cut than a year ago, hurt his ankle and came out of the game.

* * * * *

Again it’s early.

How this team will actually fare is yet to be determined.

But I, for one, a fan who, yes, wants to believe, left the arena with a good feeling.

When I got to my car, Jim Morrison was on the box, singing “break on through to the other side.”

It now seems possible.

— c d kaplan