Padgett-less Cards counting on freshmen

David Padgett was a big reason for Louisville's success, facilitating the Cardinals offense from the high-post a year ago. Now, with freshmen Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings taking over in the middle, Louisville has a new look in 2008-09.

Though Padgett averaged just 11.2 points and two assists per game last season, the 6-foot-11 center was a vital cog in the Cardinals offense – particularly in the half court. When something went wrong or a play broke down, Padgett was usually there to bail Louisville out.

"Any time something would break down David would go to the high-post and initiate offense for other people," Rick Pitino said.

"Now when a play breaks down who can spontaneously create offense? That's what David was so good at. We were unscoutable because of his abilities to flash to the high-post and it made it difficult to defend us."

Louisville will count on two freshmen to
replace David Padgett.

Padgett was certainly one of the most unselfish players in the country. He was also one of the best passing big men in college basketball. Even with Samuels, the No. 1 freshman center in the nation, ready to step in, replacing Padgett won't be easy for the Cardinals.

"David was a playmaker and you can't really replace a guy like him," junior guard Jerry Smith said. "He made everybody on the court better."

Padgett's absence will be felt largely in the half court when the game slows down.

"It impacts it a lot because when the shot clock was running out we'd throw David the ball at the top of the key and everybody would cut off of him and get a layup or a wide open three-pointer," Edgar Sosa said. "But now coach is putting more responsibility on the guards to put the ball on the floor a little more and penetrate for others."

Pitino knows Samuels and athletic 6-foot-9 freshman Terrence Jennings won't be able to facilitate Louisville's half court offense from the high-post the way Padgett so skillfully did. That means some of the Cardinals more experienced returning hands will have to step up and fill Padgett's playmaking role.

"Those two freshmen are not going to do that," Pitino said. "So it's up to the other guys - T-Will, Edgar, Andre (McGee), Jerry (Smith) and Earl - to facilitate our offense in a positive way."

Last season, Williams dished a team-high 162 assists. He certainly has the ability to create for his teammates. Pitino also believes Earl Clark can help, too. The 6-foot-9 forward handed out 48 assists last year – just four fewer than Padgett.

"Earl and T-Will certainly have those abilities. T-Will does it a little more than Earl," Pitino said.

While Samuels and Jennings don't bring Padgett's passing skills or basketball IQ to Louisville's offense, the Cardinals two rookie big men should provide a more physical presence in the post than Padgett, who averaged fewer than 5 rebounds per game last season.

"Samardo is a lot different than David Padgett," Williams said. "Samardo's a lot more physical but David was older, smarter and wiser. We tell the younger guys to play to the best of their abilities and the older guys have to step up."

Clark, who sometimes guards Samuels in practice, knows how tough the 6-foot-8, 255-pound freshman can be to handle in the low-post.

Terrence Jennings

"He's trouble," said Clark. "There aren't too many guys that can guard Samardo."

"He's really good," added Smith. "He's a handful in the post. He's going to cause a lot of double-teams and get shots for the guards. He's going to be a problem in the post because of his size and strength."

Ready or not, Samuels and Jennings will play a large role in Louisville's success this coming season. While Samuels figures to start and play the bulk of the minutes at center, Jennings will be the Cardinals top reserve behind the physically imposing Samuels.

"They don't look like freshmen," forward Reginald Delk said. "They're bodies don't look like freshmen. They don't act like freshmen. They haven't played a game in college but they're going to come in and help us."

The two freshmen big guys both bring something different to the table for the Cardinals – Samuels brute force; Jennings an athletic shot blocker who runs the court like a guard.

"They're both physical," said Sosa. "T.J. can run the floor as good as any big man I've seen. And Samardo is one of the best freshmen I've seen."

Certainly there will be a learning curve for both Samuels and Jennings, particularly early this season. One of the big things they'll have to learn is how to stay on the court and out of foul trouble.

"They do things mentally that aren't right but they're physically ready to play," Clark said. "They're ready to play they just need somebody to guide them."

"They're catching onto everything well in practice but the games are different," Sosa added. "Hopefully they can guard the other team's big man without getting into foul trouble."

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