Louisville women's basketball head coach Jeff Walz was the first to speak giving fans an introduction to the women's brand for ‘08-09.
"We are very excited about our season coming up that begins this Friday. We are returning four of our five starters from a year ago. We have returning 2-time All-American Angel McCoughtry and she has the chance to become only the 2nd player in Louisville basketball history to be a 3-time All-American. And that other player is Wes Unseld, so she has a chance to be in elite company," said Walz.
McCoughtry returns off a season in which she averaged 23.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 4.1 steals for the Cardinals. The team also returns forward Candice Bingham, center Chauntise Wright, and guard Brandie Radde. With the most talented recruiting class in the program's history, the Lady Cards are looking to do big things this season as a preseason top 10 team.
"We are going to have another pack the house event like we did last year versus UConn. But this year we are trying to sell it out. We want Angel to have a chance to play in a sold out event. I promise if you come one time you will not regret it. And if you do you can find me after the game and I will give you your money back," said Walz jokingly to the crowd. The "Pack the House" promotion this year will be held Sunday Dec. 14th vs. The University of Kentucky at 2 pm.
The keynote speaker for the afternoon was UofL men's head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino was in fine form for the annual tipoff event.
"I am very excited about the upcoming season. We have good carry over from last year. We played the 2nd most difficult schedule in the nation last year," said Pitino. "In the Big East we ended up playing Georgetown for the championship on their floor. We went on to beat Tennessee, lost to North Carolina, and finished ranked 6th in the nation."
Pitino then introduced the coaches and players that make up the '08-09 edition. Pitino had some good things to say specifically about assistant coaches Steve Masiello and Richard Pitino.
"We have really a great dynamic duo here with these two. I really feel that they will help bring in some of the best high school talent we have seen," said Pitino. "One of the problems with the success of our assistant coaches is that we don't have a lot of continuity. We had Mick Cronin, Reggie Theus, and Marvin Menzies each stay two years and move on. But the nice thing about it is when you have an ex-player and your son they can't leave until you tell them to," joked Pitino.
Pitino then brought up and introduced the players individually by graduation class. As he went through and introduced his new group, Pitino had plenty of stories and jokes that kept the capacity crowd enthralled throughout.
The senior captains for this year's team are point guard Andre McGee and swingman Terrence Williams. They will be the unquestioned leaders of this year's team. Williams passed over the NBA draft to return to the Cardinal program. He brings with him 11.1 pts, 7.2 rebs, 4.5 assts, and is also the team's best defensive player. Also shunning the draft is ultra-talented junior Earl Clark who will look to improve on his outstanding sophomore campaign. Along with fellow returning starters McGee, shooting guard Jerry Smith, and an outstanding young nucleus the Cardinals look to be a major force in the Big East and nationally.
Louisville will need all the firepower it can muster as Pitino says that the Big East is unlike anything he has seen.
"In my basketball life time I have never seen anything like what the Big East will be this season. It will be the strongest conference I think in the history of college basketball. You have seven teams ranked in the top 20, and then you have another 4 to 5 teams that I would not be surprised to see in the top 10 this season," said Pitino.
Pitino also said that his team has what it takes to be the best.
"We are cautiously optimistic about this year's basketball team. We are very fired up about our attitude and work ethic of our team. We feel they will be successful because they are willing to pay the price," said Pitino. "This group is an unselfish and a relentless group in terms of their work ethic. And they will give it all to you."
Pitino spelled out what the team will have to do to be successful this season.
"We will have to be a great defensive team and we also have to be a great foul shooting team. When you play a schedule like ours it is going to come down to the team that does not turn the basketball over, and the team that makes their free throws," said Pitino.
In closing, Pitino said that the style and talent of this team is what will make it special.
"We have a terrific freshman class and we have a very athletic basketball team. We will run more even though we are a running team. And we will press more even though we are a pressing team. We are not only going to try to fatigue our opponents, but I want our guys to share their minutes. And to understand that when they are out there that there is no resting at all. Give it everything you have," said Pitino. "We believe that we have anywhere between three and six NBA draft picks on our team. And in order for them to reach their potential as basketball players they will need to push each other to their limits."
UofL fans will have their first opportunity to see the Louisville basketball team in action October 26 in the Red-White game."