Notebook: Chris Mack provides updates on Louisville Men's Basketball program


Louisville men’s basketball coach Chris Mack recently met with the media and provided plenty of updates about the program - mainly regarding the NCAA's decision to alter the start date of the college basketball season:

Start Date Relief

The NCAA recently made the decision to push back college basketball's official start date to Nov. 25, but Mack & his program couldn't be happier to have a concrete date in place after months of rumors and speculation that it could be postponed or cancelled.

"We're awfully excited that all signs point toward getting our season started," Mack said. "I'll be honest with you, I think they probably should have left it the way it was. ... But it beats what happened to us at the end of the year a season ago."

Now that the Cardinals have a more concrete date set in place as to when competition can resume, they're excited to get back to the practice court and work towards the 2020-21 season.

"We get to increase the hours with our players next week, although it's not full-blown practice. We go from four on-the-court hours to eight, and being where we had three or four months where the guys weren't in our gym, it's important that we can get them in decent enough shape where they can start practice and we hopefully, knock on wood, not have any of those injuries that come with guys not being in the best of shape."

Rescheduling Begins

As a result of the new start date, the season was reduced by a maximum of four games, and the number of games will be determined by whether a team enters a multiple-team event. With the season a little over two months away, Louisville now begins the process of crafting a new non-conference schedule.

"We've started it. To say I have any concrete information to give you as far as likely opponents, that would be very premature, Mack said. "But to this point we're in conversations with a lot of people around the country trying to do what we can to put together a non-conference schedule."

A couple contests that have been directly impacted are the MGM Main Event in Las Vegas where Louisville was set to play a pair of games (Nov. 20, 22), and their road trip to Cincinnati (Nov. 13). Mack said the former's chance were "diminished" but not yet finalized, while the latter could get pushed back due to other circumstances.

"Let's be honest - when you have a game that you're possibly looking at playing in their arena with no fans, then I'm going to ask him a year later to come back to the Yum Center in front of 22,000 fans – if you’re John Brannen, you probably don't feel very good about that," Mack said. "I want to do what's best for our program but at the same time I'm not going to put other guys programs in a tough way."

Something that Mack believes will take place this season is the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, saying that both leagues are making it a "priority" and that it will be played "unless something unforeseen would happen."

Change in Scenery?

Many sporting league in the professional ranks have been operating within a "bubble" as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and Mack divulged that while nothing is concrete, discussions have been held regarding bringing it to the college game.

"There’s been talk of it," he said "How much talk I wouldn't be able to divide the percentage but we talked about a bubble. We talked about non-conference bubbles, we’ve talked about ACC bubbles," Mack said.

The program has also taken a look at more localized teams to add to the non-conference schedule due to the pandemic's impact on travel, including Bellarmine.

"We've been talking to several teams geographically, that are close to Louisville that could make sense of what a non-conference schedule would look. Bellarmine is certainly one of those schools," Mack said.

"Choppy" Workouts

Due to the inconsistencies that COVID-19 has brought across all walks of life, Louisville hasn't been able to conduct many workouts that are up to their standards.

"It’s been a little choppy," Mack said. "We have some in-experience that we're going to have to try to wipe away through the preseason. We're going to have some guys that have to step into roles that they didn't play a year ago."

Fortunately the NCAA instituted a transition period in which teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week starting on Sept. 21., and Mack can't wait to get started.

"I'm really encouraged and excited, and especially with the additional four hours that we get next week to really start hammering away at preseason," he said. "So I think now that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and we know what we're sort of shooting for, there's a little bit more direction and energy towards what we're doing."

Workout Standout

While offseason practice might not resemble what it normally does, there have been one player stand out and step into new roles for the 2020-21 season: Samuell Williamson.

"I think Sam Williamson looks night and day different," Mack said. "His understanding of what it takes to be prepared for a workout, to be ready to go from minute one versus last year at this time, it's just night and day.

Not only does the former McDonalds All-American have a much refined work ethic, but his physique and presence has skyrocketed.

He's a lot bigger, a lot thicker, a lot stronger. I like to think that he can take and initiate contact much better than he could as a freshman," Mack said. "I think he's a lot more confident. He plays with a lot more energy than he did a year ago, a bigger voice. He's not as quiet on the basketball floor."

Name, Image, Likeness

Just hours earlier, Louisville Athletics announced an expanded partnership with Opendorse to create ELEVATE, a program designed to help student-athletes build their individual brands. Mack believes this will give him a very distinct advantage out on the recruiting trail.

"We talked to kids we recruit and their families all the time about Louisville being a basketball city, being a city that doesn't have a high-tier professional sports team in the area," he said. "That's a great selling point and we want to make sure we put our student-athletes in the best position possible if and when that rule does change, and give them opportunities that unfortunately Cardinals of the past haven't had."

Rise As One

Back on September 10, the program released a video on social media of the players uniting as one stand against racial injustice, one that Mack also made an appearance in.

"My job is to support my players and they felt very strongly about the message they put out," he said. "I was in complete support of the video they wanted to put out, and being right here in the heart of a city that the spotlight has unfortunately been on over the last couple months, we all felt like it was an important step."

During the video, the players also announced that they would be hosting an event where eligible citizens in the community can register to vote.

"I thought that was a step in the right direction to give our guys an opportunity to make sure they vote. We've registered every guy on our team over the last couple months and I know a lot of teams in our league have as well. So obviously voting is right we all have, so our guys wanted to do that."

Top Transfer Still Impressing

Mack has been a huge fan of graduate transfer Carlik Jones ever since he arrived on campus, and that has not changed.

"He's very, very, very talented. And, he's got a lot of moxie, a lot of swagger. He really has big confidence in himself," he said. "I think he’s getting pushed extremely hard, and no disrespect to Radford, but the competition here in practice, you know, the asks in the weight room, on the floor accountability look just a little bit different. And so he’s learning some things that I think are going to be very valuable to him as a player and to our team.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard is the reigning Big South Player of the Year, averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds in his final year with the Radford Highlanders.

"I love him. He's going to be a guy that the Cardinal fans really enjoy watching," he said.

No Update From NCAA

The program recently met the deadline to respond to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, but Mack didn't offer much insight into the subject.

"No, I don't have any idea," when asked if he thinks it will have an impact on the upcoming 2020-21 season. "All that stuff happened before me and so I don't, no I don’t."

Back in May, Louisville received one Level I and three Level II allegations stemming from the recruitment of Brian Bowen and the Adidas pay-for-play scheme during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.

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