Sequels to movies only work when one of two things happen: The exact same element that worked in the first movie is found again in the second, or, it’s the Godfather II.
If Louisville basketball’s 2013-14 season were going to be a movie, it wouldn’t be the Godfather, although some Louisville fans will point to Rick Pitino and claim him as such. No, this season won’t have the exact same elements as the last one for the Cardinals. This time around, there’s no Peyton Siva. We’re going to see Russ Smith reform from Russdiculous to Russpassulous.
Smith needs to capture some of the elements that Siva brought to the team: Russ Smith, hands-off on defense. Russ Smith, the smart shooter. Russ Smith, the passer. People say that “change is inevitable,” but who knew they meant change like this?
Smith now has multiple agendas – a repeat title is one he will gladly admit. But his experimentation with the entering of last year’s draft reminds us all that he has another: to become a better individual player. To help the team and to help himself, he must become a more diverse player with refined objectives.
There is no replacing the Russdiculous role from last. But with Smith taking on a greater leadership and far more team-oriented role, others will have to step up and provide a spark for this year’s team. Have no fear, the freshman class is here, and the new guys are all about being nominees for best supporting role:
Chris Jones – “I’m a driver” One worry that has risen is who will be the man behind the wheel, waiting for that pass from Smith? Who will drive with such fearlessness and disregard of a defender, or two, or three? In the scrimmages and exhibition games, a very compact Jones drove the ball convincingly well. He believes this is his role for the team. “Driving is natural because I’m so strong. I’m used to bouncing off bigs, anyway. I’m not a jump shot shooter. That’s not really my game, I’m a driver.”
Terry Rozier – “It’s defense and rebounds for me” Rozier passes remarkably. He puts on a show with no-looks and body fakes. He also shoots the ball to the point where no one can deem that he was an overrated prospect. But the most notable fundamental that he has shown is rebounding. Offensively or defensively, it doesn’t matter — he goes after it. In both exhibition games, he has had rebounding numbers similar to guys playing the four and five, so don’t let his 6-foot-1, 170-lb frame deceive you. Rozier racks it up to toughness: “I’ve been taking pride [in rebounding] since I was very young. It’s not a skill. It’s a toughness about you.” It’s also an effort, and an appetite that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his team.
Russ Smith commented on the freshman, saying “Terry’s hungry. He wants to learn. It’s fun to have a guy like that.”
Along with that learning comes a self-realization of where exactly he is needed. “I’m more of playing my role for the team… I’m not so much of a scorer, now. It’s defense and rebounds for me.”
Anton Gill – “the open perimeter” Already deemed a “role player,” soft-spoken Gill will be ready when Pitino calls. He knows what he has to bring. Says Gill, “I have to be a spark.” And when he is in the game? “I find a lot of open shots because people are in the lanes, so I have to knock those down. “
The Cards are hoping those shots will fall even more frequently as the season gets going.
The Cardinals play their season opener today at 1:00 against College of Charleston, starting the campaign for best movie of the year — it’s going to be interesting to see which cast members shine in their supporting roles.