LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rick Pitino has an idea of where some points will come from on a Louisville squad he hopes will create scoring opportunities through his trademark pressure defense.
The Hall of Fame coach is confident that players such as junior guard Quentin Snider and sophomore wing Deng Adel will play big roles in making things work on both ends of the floor for the Cardinals.
For the 6-foot-2 Snider — a Louisville native who is the Cardinals’ top returning scorer (9.4 points per game), co-captain and floor leader — the high expectations aren’t different from his own.
“My goal this year is being more aggressive, taking the open shots,” said Snider, who also averaged 3.5 assists per contest last season. “But I still want to be a good facilitator and find easy shots for D.A. (Adel) and Donovan (Mitchell). … Coach just said I just have to take the shot, and that’s what I have to do.”
The 6-7 Adel looks to stay healthy after being sidelined for a month early last season with a left knee injury. He returned to average 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in five starts down the stretch and show glimpses of the athleticism that had him poised to break out before the injury.
A summer of training — and the looming threat from Pitino of spending time on the treadmill for passing up shots — have Adel motivated to shoot early, to shoot often and to rebound.
“That treadmill was my best friend and it was just little things,” Adel said. “The injury hurt me mentally and I felt like I was in the back of the pack. I had a lot of things I had to shake off. This will be much better.”
Pitino certainly hopes so as he cited contributions from Adel and Snider in a Tuesday news conference that addressed several topics. Among them was the ongoing NCAA investigation into escort Katina Powell’s book allegations that former men’s basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with Cardinals recruits and players at the team’s dormitory.
The school’s investigation ultimately led to a self-imposed postseason ban in February that left Louisville outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments and wondering what if after finishing 23-8 (12-6 ACC). Pitino said several times Tuesday that he and the program have moved on from the scandal and is eager to see what’s possible with players such as Adel, Snider and a lighter Mitchell.
“I think Deng is going to score a lot of points,” Pitino said. “I think Donovan is going to score points. I think Quentin Snider will get points. … I think you’ll see a lot of players step up and score. They’re very capable of doing that.”
Snider’s confidence and poise began growing after replacing the dismissed Chris Jones as a starter, when he averaged 9.5 points and 3.1 assists in 10 late-season Louisville games. The soft-spoken guard took it a step further last season, teaming with graduate transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee to lead the offense and provide chemistry that Pitino believes will be one of this year’s strengths.
Adel and Snide get their chance to showcase the improvements they’ve made over the summer in Wednesday night’s first Red-White scrimmage. No matter which squad they play on, the Cardinals expect energy from Adel while taking their cues from the veteran they call “Q.”
“Q is our anchor,” said senior center Mangok Mathiang, a co-captain. “He speeds the pace up, slows the pace down and calls the shots. He’s gotten better every year. With him doing his thing, we just try to help and say, ‘Q, it’s your rock, you do what you gotta do.'”