The Floyd Street Tribune: A second practice visit and a question to ponder as the season starts
Inside: Observations from Wednesday's team workout; a question that came up as I watched Louisville play; a note about Mike James; and some podcast material.
Thanks for reading The Floyd Street Tribune! Missed the previous newsletters? That’s OK. With a paid subscription, you can access all of ‘em here. Last week, I detailed my initial impressions of Louisville after seeing the Cardinals in practice for the first time.
For the second Wednesday in a row, I ventured down to the Kueber Center to watch Louisville practice. The two-hour session was as brisk as last week’s, albeit with a dash of mid-preseason doldrums that brought out the fire in Chris Mack.
There is still seasoning to be done.
A few bulleted thoughts from the latest viewing:
After Matt Cross and Mason Faulkner sat out the last practice, they were both participants this time (Cross in full, Faulkner in most drills), giving me a better idea of how they move and operate within Louisville’s social hierarchy and on-court system. More on both below. Malik Williams and Jae’Lyn Withers were also full participants.
Williams looks as quick as ever. He still sometimes settles for shots, but he also showed off a quickness in attacking fellow centers off the dribble. He drilled a crossover stepback jumper early in practice that caught his teammates’ attention. He is still Louisville’s top post-up scorer, and he is the clear leader of the team.
Withers is just so long. When he wants to, he can be an above-the-rim, dominant player. But that’s an operative clause: when he wants to. The aggression is still a work in progress: Mack got on him for not dunking an offensive putback, which allowed Dre Davis to fly in and block his layup. (So, yes, for the fans who constantly ask, Louisville does teach dunking the ball.) Still, the redshirt sophomore can run the break, knock down 3s, make good passes and take on defenders in 1-on-1s.
Sam Williamson on Wednesday looked like a player ready for a big season. There is an edge to him. He tried on multiple occasions to dunk on his teammates. He was again dogged in the pursuit of rebounds. You can see the work he put in on his 3-pointer — getting his clip into the 30s would make him a much more dangerous offensive weapon.
As for Cross, he ran the break on a few occasions, got into the mix on the glass and made some nice passes and drives. Still has some defensive progress to make. He may play both forward spots.
Don’t be surprised if you see Dre Davis in post-ups or as the screener in pick-and-rolls. His versatility makes him really interesting in this group.
Still didn’t get to see Faulkner in live, physical action, just drills, but he moves like a veteran. Jarrod West spent a lot of time pushing Faulkner and talking him through a few Louisville-specific principles and situations — Faulkner arrived late this summer and has some catching up to do there.
JJ Traynor is such a tantalizing prospect. He needs to add weight to his frame and keep working to be more consistent, but the flashes are easy to like. He turned a two-dribble baseline drive into a thunderous dunk that prompted a gym-wide “ooh.”