Final Four: Louisville notebook

ATLANTA – Cardinal Authority has a few notebook items for you to enjoy heading into Saturday's NCAA Tournament Final Four game at the Georgia Dome. The Cardinals will face Wichita State at 6:09 p.m.


According to multiple media reports, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is expected to be picked into the Class of 2013 for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame class will be announced on Monday at 11 a.m. at the Marriott Marquis in Downtown Atlanta. Pitino, who won a national title at Kentucky in 1996, has the Cardinals in the Final Four this weekend at the Georgia Dome.

Pitino hasn't confirmed he's been selected but on Friday told Cardinal Authority that "it would be an honor if I am selected."

The Hall of Fame named 12 finalists for the '13 class in February and Pitino was one of those finalists. To be selected into the Hall of Fame, a finalist needed 18 of 24 votes from members of the Honors Committee.

The Hall of Fame ceremony will be Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass.


Injured senior Mike Marra has a different role with the U of L basketball team this season but Pitino said he's still "a big part" of this squad.

Marra, who suffered a torn ligament in his knee for the second time during preseason practice, sits on the end of the bench and charts statistics.

He's said he wants to become a coach and has "learned a lot" from his new role, which also includes being a senior leader.

"This is just all surreal," Marra said. "It's very enlightening to me to be able to be surround by this group of guys and it brings such a joy to me. When I got hurt and to think that we would be at the Final Four and I would be happy is ridiculous.

"But to think all of these guys are shining and I am happy to be part of it."


In the game Kevin Ware was suspended earlier this season, walk-on Michael Baffour – aka Dark Slime – saw action in the first half.

Baffour will be dressed on Saturday night and said he's ready if coach Pitino needs him to get into the game. The walk-ons rotate because only one can dress per game in the tournament but Pitino said Baffour would dress.

"Anything I can do to help my team," Baffour said. "If it's cheer on the bench or get in the game for a minute, I'll do whatever."

Baffour said the experience has been "amazing."

"When we arrived at the hotel there was a live band playing, so I knew it was special," Baffour said. "It's a dream come true."


Louisville fans and junior guard Russ Smith should send former player Rakeem Buckles a thank you card.

Buckles, who transferred to Florida International prior to this season, deserves credit for Louisville's All-American sticking out his difficult freshman year.

Smith told the media on Friday that he had his bag packed on January 26, 2011 and he was ready to transfer before Louisville played West Virginia. He shared his plan with Buckles, his roommate.

"With all my stuff packed, I told him ‘I'm not going to this game. I'm going to sit this one out; I'm done'," Smith said. "He came to my room and kind grabbed me like ‘Yo, what you doing, man? Don't end it like this. Just go to the game'."

Being shook by a man nearly a foot taller, Russ relented. He went to the arena but didn't prepare himself to play, wearing one just one pair of socks and choosing not to tape his ankles.

"Little did I know, Coach needed me," Smith said. He played nine minutes that night, hitting a 3 and grabbing two rebounds in a comeback 55-54 win.

"I was not ready to get into the game but Coach put me in and I performed," Smith said. "From there, I just decided to stay."

Buckles tore his ACL near the end of his junior season in 2011 and reinjured it last summer. He chose to transfer to be closer to his Miami home. He sat out this year under NCAA transfer rules while rehabbing his injury and will have one season of eligibility next year.

Smith got another assist – this time from his father – at the end of his freshman year when he considered joining former Louisville assistant Steve Masiello at Manhattan.

"My dad was like, ‘No, you're not going to out like that. We're from Brooklyn. We don't tap out. … You're going to earn your minutes and that's what I did.'"


U of L senior point guard Peyton Siva was honored on Friday with the 45th annual Frances Pomeroy Naismith award, announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

A four-year standout, Siva won the award named in honor of James Naismith's daughter-in-law for his leadership, character, loyalty, all-around basketball ability and excellence in the classroom.

Siva was named Big East Tournament MVP for the second straight year and holds the school's record for career steals.

NOTE: Josh Abner contributed to this article.

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