26 Courts and 26 Top Moments at 2015 AAU Nationals

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Another AAU Nationals event is in the books. Over 450 teams made their way to the basketball capital of the world for the five day event. The fairgrounds is a perfect setting for this event and I’d love to see more grassroots events held in the city of Louisville. The event featured 26 basketball courts and on each court there were kids from all over the country chasing their dreams. I enjoyed this event and below is my top 26 moments from the 2015 AAU Nationals.

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#26 My 26th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was just getting the chance to watch some basketball: This July has been a hot one in Kentucky. And for avid sports fans it is a hot and dry time for action involving sporting events. However, for the last two years the AAU Nationals in Louisville has provided a thirst quenching event for my sports craving.

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#25 My 25th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing all of the different Uniform Combinations the good and bad: I can tell you that Nike had some of the best this past week and they provide some great uniforms for their teams. I can tell you that a team from Canada had the worst of the week. They ironed on the numbers the night before and they were falling off of the players during a game. Come on Canada…

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#24 My 24th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was eating at the Pork Producers booth: The opening day of AAU Nationals was on July 22nd. This was my late father’s birthday. My father and I always went to the Farm Machinery shows every year and we would always eat one of those great pork chop sandwiches. On Wednesday I had the chance to eat a pork chop sandwich at the AAU event and thought about my dad the whole time. Thanks Pork Producers of Kentucky!

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#23 My 23rd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was being able to drive to the event in less than an hour. It’s great to be able to get to one of the biggest grassroots events of the summer without having to drive so far especially with the summer time gas prices. Please AAU come back next year!

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#22 My 22nd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was all of those basketball courts in one building: There’s just something great about going into a gym and hearing those sneakers squeaking on the court. But hearing all of those sneakers on all of those courts is really awesome. Music to my ears…

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#21 My 21st favorite moment at AAU Nationals is seeing all the different coaches and scouts: I watch all those college teams on TV all season and read and follow all of the news from all of the scouting services all season. Getting to meet and see some of these folks in person at a grassroots event is pretty neat. There is always knowledge to be gained by talking with some of the best in the business.

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#20 My 20th favorite moment at AAU Nationals is people watching: This event brings in folks from all over the country and all walks of life. It’s always great to meet and greet different people. This event offers that and more.

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#19 My 19th favorite moment at AAU Nationals is the Merch: I always love the chance to add to the T-shirt collection and this week I got to buy a cool AAU shirt and a pair of shorts. I also have a great new pair of sunglasses thanks to Eastbay…

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#18 My 18th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was the dunks: I got to see dunks off of the alleyoop, the give and go, and the pick and roll. A rim shaking, boom shaka laka spectacle. Kids nowadays have a lot of ups. Just go to MyVert.com and see some results from their booth this week. Unreal!

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#17 My 17th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing all the Beats and Sneak combinations: I’m a sucker for swag. It seems like every kid at a grassroots event has on a pair of Beats headphones and they also bust out some pretty sweet sneakers. I got to see a lot of cool combinations this week.

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#16 My 16th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to share a day with my son: He’s only 3 years old but he already loves the game of basketball. I look forward to the day when I can start him in a grassroots organization.

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#15 My 15th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was the chance to feed off the positive energy: There’s just something very reviving and refreshing to see young people having a great time. Having over 3000 basketball players inside one building you could cut the energy with a knife.

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#14 My 14th favorite moment was seeing some great shooters: Some folks in the industry think that the jump shot is a lost art. After watching hours and hours of grassroots basketball this past week I can tell you it isn’t. I had the chance to see some very fundamentally sound shooters.

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#13 My 13th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was watching ball in The Hall: I love the KFC Yum Center but there’s nothing like going back to that hallowed ground known as Freedom Hall. I cut my teeth on Louisville Basketball in that building and it was great getting a chance to see some basketball there again this past week. Freedom Hall always had that distinct smell about it also. Nothing like that aroma…

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#12 My 12th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was watching the coaches interact with their players: There are many different coaching styles and at this grassroots event they were all on display. Watching the pride and love some of the coaches this past week showed to their teams was inspirational. Grassroots coaches sometimes get a bad rap, but there are guys who do genuinely care for those kids. I watched the Travelers coaches cry on Sunday as they told a group of their player’s good-bye. Good stuff!

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#11 My 11th favorite moment at AAU Nationals finding that diamond in the ruff: Attending one of these events can be overwhelming. There are so many teams and so many players. It’s great when you pick a random court, sit down and see some unknown player lighting it up. That happened a few times this past week.

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#10 My 10th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to see some of our Louisville Basketball Players: It’s great seeing our Cardinals hanging out together and watching events in Louisville. And to respect where you are you have to respect where you’ve been. Several guys were at AAU National supporting the same teams they played for at the grassroots level.

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#9 My 9th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing and saying hi to a legendary coach: Coach Denny Crum made his way out to the AAU events this past week. It’s always great to see the Hall of Fame coach out and about. I guess he couldn’t pass up the chance to see a game of basketball on the old court either. Coach still looks good and I think he has a few games left in him.

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#8 My 8th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was another year of experience covering grassroots basketball: I have had two occasions this summer to cover AAU basketball in person. I don’t think I’ll ever be an expert like Dave Telep or Evan Daniels but every year these events are close enough to make the trip the more I learn. Knowledge is power…

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#7 My 7th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was seeing teams playing we basketball instead of me basketball: Sure AAU Basketball is filled with a lot of razzle dazzle and helter skelter type basketball and I enjoy seeing some of that great one-on-one action. But I really enjoyed seeing a few teams who focused on good shot selection and team defense. Passing, screening and cutting are not completely missing from grassroots basketball and I witnessed that with my own eyes this past week.

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#6 My 6th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to use my camera: I have no trouble taking great photos when I cover football games but basketball poses more of a challenge. This week I got to practice that skill. There is still room for a lot of improvement.

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#5 My 5th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to watch a 2017 Louisville target: There was only one guy at AAU Nationals with a UofL offer and that was 2017 David Sloan. He could potentially be the best player in the state of Kentucky in his class. I only got to catch him in action briefly with his Louisville Magic squad but he seems like a very poised and confident player. It made me think in comparison to Quentin Snider.

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#4 My 4th favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting to see my favorite 2016 recruit finish his grassroots career in Freedom Hall: In my short time of covering high school recruiting I’ve had the pleasure to follow Carson Williams a guy who plays for my hometown Alma Mater. This is a young man who is a perfect example of why AAU works. It’s unfortunate but often times you got to play on the right team, play on the right court, and play in the right organization. Exposure is the key and for a young man like Carson who plays high school ball in a rural area the exposure he’s gained through AAU basketball has been critical. In this past week alone he got to play in front of several big names in college basketball. I have really enjoyed following the last two years of his grassroots career and am glad the AAU Nationals returned to Louisville so I could watch him finish it.

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#3 My 3rd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting the chance to see some of my favorite Cardinals from the past: There were several former Louisville players participating in or walking around watching the action this past week. I got to say hi and shake hands with a few of these guys I grew up watching. That’s always cool…

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#2 My 2nd favorite moment at AAU Nationals was getting credentials to cover the event: I’m not a professional member of the media and have been running my own website now for about three years. I put a lot of effort and hard work into this and it always makes me feel rewarded when I’m acknowledged for that. I’m very appreciative when I can get credentialed to cover an event. Thank you AAU for a great week…

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#1 My top moment at AAU Nationals was getting to watch thousands of kids chase their dreams and play a sport that they love for five days: There are always mixed opinions when it comes to grassroots basketball and it like everything else in life has its good and bad aspects. I can tell you that I got to see nothing but good this past week at AAU Nationals. Watching all these young men gaining life experience and learning lessons that only playing team sports can provide I found myself thinking about what all of them would be doing if not playing in this event. Getting some of these kids off the streets and involved in a positive environment is huge. And the opportunity for all of these young men to get college scholarships is immeasurable. AAU basketball is important and there are still coaches, parents and folks involved in the organization who have nothing but great intentions. There is nothing more important than having a meaningful impact on a young person’s life. Many lives were impacted over the last five days. Kudos AAU… Kudos!

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En PASSant

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College recruiting is a lot like a chess match between coaches. Each one makes their strategic moves throughout the process trying to one up the other. Today it looks like Coach Petrino and his staff made all the right moves and got the checkmate over two of the biggest programs in the SEC.

In a little over a month from now our Cardinals will get the chance to knock of the Auburn Tigers in the opening game of the college football season. Today they got a huge win off the field when they beat both Auburn and Alabama for one of the best young quarterback prospects in the country Jawon Pass. Ranked the 186th overall best football player in the country by ESPN, 208th by Scout, and 179th by 247Sports this guy had every major football program in the country on his trail. But it all came down to what most believed was a race between Bama and Louisville.

Anytime you can go into SEC country and grab a big time prospect it’s a bonus, but when you beat out the premier football program in the south that’s a huge statement for any program. This week at SEC media days Auburn’s head coach Guss Malzahn and Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt had nothing but great things to say about where the Louisville program is and where it is headed. I can tell you right now that with a guy like Jawon Pass on the roster along with the other great athletes this staff is landing the future is bright and we will be National Title contenders sooner than later.

This is just an incredible victory for Coach Petrino and his staff and for the University of Louisville. Another great day to be a Louisville Cardinal.

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Cards in Transition “The Year of the Cardinal Transfers”

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We are hitting that summer grind for many sports fans and it is the time of year when we start looking ahead to basketball and football and at the returning players who will have a major impact for their respective teams during the fall and winter seasons.

Over the last two or three years our Louisville Cardinals have had their fair share of success in both of the major sports programs basketball and football. That success came from the hard work and dedication of groups of players who cared enough to give their very best and decided that they would play a significant role in those programs.

In 2014 Louisville Basketball said good-bye to its winningest senior class in school history. And just this past season the Louisville football program said good-bye to one of the winningest senior classes in all of college football. Losing all of those great seniors to graduation and some great players to early entry can put teams into a transition period.

With the recent losses on their respective teams and the change of the landscape both Coach Pitino and Coach Petrino had to get creative so that they could keep their programs competing at a high level. This season they will rely heavily on transfers and we could see a few of those transfers having the biggest impact on the Cardinals Basketball and Football seasons.

I use transition period because I know how much Cardinal fans despise the phrase “Bridge Year”. That became a topic of great debate several years ago when Coach Pitino uttered those words. With the loss of Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to early entry and having one of his youngest groups in recent memory Coach Pitino finds himself right in the middle of a transition period.

He has a couple of the 2015 guys that will be able to contribute immediately but still he knew he was going to need more than that in what will be another brutal year in the ACC. Coach Pitino isn’t a big fan of the one and done system, but he just might be a big beneficiary of the done and one system.

During the off season Coach Pitino took full advantage of the graduate transfer rule and landed two of the best in the country in Trey Lewis and Damion Lee. These guys will bring some much needed sharp shooting and scoring and will provide some much needed maturity to the young 2015-16 group.

I know there will be chemistry issues and a learning curve for these guys joining the team for just one year, but that trip to Puerto Rico on August 10-17, along with the 10 days of practice before will go a long way. Not only do I think these two transfers could have the biggest impact on the Cardinals basketball season I think they could be the difference in a title run or not.

While two transfers make their impact on the Louisville Basketball program there will be several who will make their mark on the Louisville Football program. Not only has Coach Petrino been task with completely restocking his team with guys who fit into his system he is also replacing 10 NFL draft picks from last season.

Coach Petrino and his staff have done a great job at beating the bush to find some Juco guys that will be able to come in and fill some of those roles and to add depth. They have also done a great job at finding guys who didn’t work out for other D1 programs and that are looking to make a fresh start with another. The program has got some criticism for giving kids a second chance but it really is a win/win in my opinion.

Out of the Juco guys I think Khalil Hunter, Alphonso Carter, Kiola Mahoni, and Cole Hikutini could make the biggest impacts on the season. These guys should be able to step in and play some meaningful minutes.

This next group of guys will be coming into the 2015 football season hungry and ready to compete again at the highest level after having to sit out a year of big-time football. Coach Petrino has to be creative to keep Louisville on the path of a National Title contender and these guys will not only help Louisville do that but will also help them maintain the level of success Cardinal Fans have grown accustomed to over the last few years. Shaq Wiggins, Jaquay Savage, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and Devonte Fields will be huge for the Cardinals. He didn’t have to sit out for a year but UAB transfer Jamari Staples will also want to show what he can do against some of those great ACC defenses.

Don’t get me wrong both the Cardinals Basketball and Football programs have some very good returning players who will make big contributions this season. Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang, James Quick, Brandon Radcliff, Sheldon Rankins, Keith Kelsey, and James Burgess are going to be big for their teams but when the 2015-16 Basketball and Football seasons end it will be the transfers who will have had the biggest impact. It will be the year of the Cardinal Transfers…

Louisville Basketball Recruiting: July Evaluation Period who’s, what’s & where’s

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College basketball recruiting is the main event of the summer. Fans go crazy for the latest buzz on recruits considering their school. College sports fans go through withdrawal type symptoms during the summer months. After the NBA draft there is not anything to look forward to until college football starts. The summer really is a dead time for college sports fans. However, starting in July they can get their fix as college basketball recruits from around the country compete in AAU tournaments.

In July there are three five-day segments spread out over three weeks where coaches are going all over the country trying to see as many recruits as possible. But it’s not just coaches who are watching the recruits. Different scouts from various online sources log thousands of miles every year going to watch high school kids evaluating them, ranking them, and following them through their recruiting process.

-First Period (July 8-12) This includes the following events: Nike Peach Jam (North Augusta, South Carolina), Under Armour All-American Camp (Charlotte, North Carolina), Adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale (Atlanta), Elevate Hoops Showdown (Philadelphia), Hoop Group events (Reading, Pennsylvania), Hoop Seen Best of the South (Suwanee, Georgia)

-Second Period (July 15-19) This includes the following events: Nike Global Challenge (Chicago), Under Armour Finals (Atlanta), Adidas Uprising All-American Camp (Long Island, New York), Separation Sports Management events, Great American Shootout (Duncanville, Texas), NY2LA Summer Jam (Mequon, Wisconsin), Double Pump Best of the Summer Tournament (Anaheim, California), Peach State Showcase (Augusta, Georgia)

-Third Period (July 22-26) This includes the following events: Las Vegas Events Adidas Summer Championships, AAU Nationals and Super Showcase (Louisville, Kentucky), Elevate Hoops events, Sunflower Showcase (Lawrence, Kansas), Battle of the Borders (Burlington, New Jersey)

Traveling around the country in the summer following these recruiting events is something the average basketball fan cannot do. But the sports hungry college basketball fans thirst for the information. And some pay big money for it. With the combination of social media and the internet, there is all kinds of information available. I will provide updates on all of The Cardinal’s Beak social media accounts and the Recruiting page. I will also be covering the AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.

Coach Pitino and his assistants will be out working hard over the next few weeks and it all began at 5 o’clock on Wednesday. They’ll be making their rounds all over the country during this July evaluation period checking out around 16 guys in the 2016 class and around 8 guys in the 2017 class. The biggest area of need in the 2016 class will be in the back-court. Coach Pitino will have 3 scholarships at his disposal to fill his needs. We will be in really good shape heading into the 2017 Class year and Coach Pitino will probably only have one scholarship available in this class. I think he will be looking hard to get good wing player.

Top Targets 2016:

-Markelle Fultz, 6-3, SG, Hyattsvlle, Md. (Scout #23, Rivals #23, 247Sports #21, ESPN #21)
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(Photo: 247Sports, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

This kid became a breakout star in April and has been trending upwards ever since. Our coaching staff loves these types of guys who come on strong late in their recruiting process. Every guy in our 2015 class was one of these guys. Fultz is a perimeter player that loves to take his man off the bounce, and knows how to get to the rim with some pretty sound basketball moves. He can also hit the mid-range jumper with consistency, and shows he can get into a scoring rhythm. Fultz makes high-level plays on the offensive end of the floor. His athletic, attacking approach and the way he competes is very impressive and a treat to watch. You can find some highlight video over on the recruiting page. I’d love to see this guy in red. His offer list includes: Arizona, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida State, Georgetown, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, Miami (FL), North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, South Carolina, Texas, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia, and Xavier. Right now it appears that Arizona and Louisville are neck and neck in this recruiting battle.

-Kameron McGusty, 6-5, G, Katy, Tx. (Scout #30, Rivals #36, 247Sports #35, ESPN #40)
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(Photo: 247Sports, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

McGusty is another guy who has exploded onto the scene lately making his very first appearance inside most of the national recruiting sites top 40. He has been averaging over 20 points a game leading the UAA in scoring. He also uses some great basketball moves to find his way into the paint for easy baskets and has a pretty sweet little pull up jumper. One of the most impressive things about this young player is his shot selections and the skinny on him is that he never takes a bad shot. His offer list includes: Auburn, Boise State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Houston, Indiana, Kansas State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Rice, Stephen F. Austin, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tulsa, USC, Virginia Commonwealth, and Wake Forest. Oklahoma is being portrayed as the stand alone leader right now for McGusty’s services but many schools including Louisville were a little late to the table with this kid. I look for us to make up some ground in the next few weeks.

– De’Aaron Fox, 6-2, G, Katy, Tx. (Scout #15, Rivals #9, 247Sports #8, ESPN #10)
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(Photo: 247Sports)

Fox has been at the top of the wish list for a lot of major programs. He isn’t a true point guard in the traditional sense of the word, but his explosiveness off the dribble and shooting touch are tough to deal with. Fox is a long and wiry point player, and is still trying to find the balance between scoring and facilitating. He has been a notable figure in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball circuit this season and leads league in assists and steals. A guy who plays great defense even in a summer league. You know Coach Pitino loves that. His offer list includes: Louisville, Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, LSU, SMU, Texas, and Texas A&M. Texas is thought to be in the lead at this time for Fox’s services with Kansas being second and Louisville being third on the list. The coaching staff have recently turned up the heat here so I look for this ranking to change.

-Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, 6-9, C, Pinetown, N.C. (Scout #25, Rivals #7, 247Sports #14, ESPN #8)
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(Photo: 247Sports)

Adebayo is a big, strong low post player who gives it his all on every possession. He’s a post player who runs rim to rim all game long and lives on the glass while making strong moves inside. With a nick name like “Bam” you know he likes to bang down on the blocks and he is known for being a glass cleaner. Along with those skills he can also knock down face up 17-footers consistently. This kid really is a monster. His offer list includes: Louisville, Memphis, Duke, Georgetown, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Old Dominion, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. The hometown schools NC State and North Carolina seem to be in the lead for Bam’s services with Louisville sitting in that third spot. Not sure how not really needing a post guy for this class will play into this recruitment but it likely will.

-Javin DeLaurier, 6-9, F, Charlottesville, Va. (Scout #36, Rivals #40, 247Sports #40, ESPN #49)
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(Photo: Vantage Hoops)

By all accounts there were always signs of potential in this 6-foot-8 forward, but this spring and summer, DeLaurier has been a completely new player. He is another one of those players who has made a Rapid Ascension into the major recruiting site polls. His ball skills are good, his perimeter jump shot is decent, and he’s also an impressive passer. His biggest strength comes on the defensive end, where he can guard multiple positions, defend in the post, and rebound in traffic. His offer list includes: Baylor , Boston College, California, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, George Washington, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Marquette, Miami (FL), North Carolina, Old Dominion, Princeton , Richmond, Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia Commonwealth , Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Right now Texas and Vandy appear to be leading the way for DeLaurier. Again this is one that Louisville came in a little late on but are making up ground quickly.

– Dennis Smith, 6-2, PG, Fayetteville, N.C. (Scout #4, Rivals #4, 247Sports #3, ESPN #4)
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(Photo: 247Sports)

Smith is an attacking point guard that is best at getting in the lane with his explosiveness and he is unselfish along the way looking to get his teammates involved regardless of what the defense throws at him. He has all the physical tools to run a team and score as needed. Smith is an elite prospect and has tremendous upside. This would be the crown jewel in the recruiting class if the Cardinals could land Smith. According to 247Sports Louisville, Kansas, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest and UNC are at the top of his list heading into July. The hometown team NC State appears to be in the lead but again don’t count out the Cards.

Louisville has their ace recruiter Kenny Johnson leading the way in the recruitment of all of these top targets. With his track record one has to think that we will land one or two of these guys mentioned above. Any of them would be huge for the program.

Other names to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks:
Dewan Huell, 6-9, F, Miami Norland
Terrence Ferguson, 6-6, SF, Dallas, Tx.
Bruce Brown, 6-3, G, Saxtons-River, Vt.
William McDowell-White, 6-5, G, Australia
Mamadi Diakite, 6-9, F, Dyke, Va.
Miles Bridges, 6-6, SF, Huntington, W. Va.
Eric Hester, 6-3, SG, Oldsmar, Fla.
Josh Jackson, 6-6, SF, Napa, Calif.
Dennis Smith, 6-2, PG, Fayetteville, N.C.
Jaylen Fisher, 6-1, G, Memphis, Tenn.
Curtis Jones, 6-4, SG, Huntington Prep
Abdul Ado, 6-11, C, Chattanooga, Tenn.

If things play out like expected then there won’t be much buzz surrounding Louisville’s 2017 recruiting class as there will only be one scholarship available. Here are some of the names in the 2017 class that will be floating around this summer.

Matt Coleman, Mouth of Wilson, Va., 6-1, PG
Troy Brown, Las Vegas, 6-5, PG
Brian Bowen, Saginaw, Mich., 6-7, SF
Jaylen Hands, Chula Vista, Calif., 6-2, PG
David Sloan, Taylor County, 5-10, PG
D.J. Harvey, Hyattsville, Md., 6-4, SF
Hamidou Diallo, Putnam, Ct., 6-5, SG
Trevon Duval, Newark, N.J., 6-3, PG
Charles O’Bannon Jr. Bishop Gorman Las Vegas, NV 6-4, SG

Cardinal Fans Again Among Nations Best

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Louisville fans prove yet again how they are among the best in the country in supporting their basketball programs. According to the official NCAA numbers just released The Louisville men’s Basketball program finished 3rd in the nation in college basketball attendance, averaging 21,386 fans per game. The Louisville women’s Basketball program finished third with 9,515. The two programs combined had a total average attendance of 30,901 and that puts Louisville at #1 in the country. Our attendance for women’s basketball was better than eight ACC men’s programs.

U of L spent most of the 2000s fourth or fifth in average attendance until the KFC Yum Center, with a 22,090 capacity, opened in 2010. The Cardinals have finished third every year since. Freedom Hall officially seated 18,865.

Louisville was one of the schools that had the most people watch them with 640,947 in 36 games last season in home-away-neutral settings and was one of just three schools to average at least 20,000 fans per game.

In Division I, attendance totaled 27,422,615 for the year. Although it was down slightly from a season ago, the attendance is the ninth highest total in history. However, the NCAA tournament total attendance increased. The tournament earned its third-highest attendance in history with 739,798 fans. The record-setting total of 800,377 came in 2012-13.

Kudos to the Cardinal Nation for showing up last season. Lets do it again this season. Go Cards!