Louisville Cardinals basketball fans are elated because guard Russ Smith is going to return for his senior year.
Anyone who’s watched Russ knows he can do some amazing things with the basketball. (Look at all the games he led the team in points.) But we also know he can do some amazingly stupid things with the basketball. (Look at the five overtime loss against Notre Dame.) Russ seriously thought about entering the NBA draft, and I’m sure the general managers were looking at the stupid things.
I was at the national championship against Michigan in Atlanta game and screamed “No, Russ!” when Louisville was up by eight with 2:36 left and a fresh 35-second shot clock, and Russ put up a bad shot from beyond the three-point line. All he had to do was hold onto the ball, let the clock run down and set up a play for a better shot. I just kept thinking, “If Louisville loses, this is where it happened.”
Plus, I suspect he also didn’t want to leave Louisville after the disappointing game he had in the national championship. Only nine points, and lots of bad shots, including the one above.
The extra year under Coach Rick Pitino should add a lot more maturity to Russ’s game. And look at the team they’ll have. Three starters returning: Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshire. The Final Four MVP Luke Hancock is back. Kevin Ware’s leg will be healed. Two departing starters, but Montrezl Harrell is back at forward or center, and a really good recruiting class is coming up.
And if things go right, Russ gets into his third Final Four, and has a chance to defend the national championship. Put it all together, and that makes him a definite first round draft choice in 2014.
In the meantime, let’s wallow in the 2013 victory, with Dick Vitale and the ESPN America feed out of the U.K.