2014 Commits for Card Women’s Hoops

20130209-191655.jpgThe Louisville Women’s Basketball program picked up their fourth commit for the class of 2014 yesterday. Keil Moore of ProspectsNation.com had a nice article on the latest commit along with the previous three (including Syd).

Getting excited about Louisville Women’s Basketball.

After a great run that saw the Louisville women’s basketball program make it all the way to the national championship game, coach Jeff Walz and his staff have managed to capitalize with a good deal of recruiting success. Myisha Hines-Allen’s decision to pick Louisville over Georgia Tech and West Virginia is the next example of the success carrying over to recruiting momentum.

“The school in general was an amazing place,” Hines-Allen, the No. 13 prospect in the ELITE 100, said. “I felt like home while I was there.”

Hines-Allen picked Louisville after making an unofficial visit to Georgia Tech in early June in addition to official visits to Louisville and West Virginia in August.

The 6-foot-2 forward has a combination of size and athleticism that is rarely seen on the recruiting circuit. She is a much improved perimeter shooter and is also capable of putting the ball on the deck and making a play. She should fit in well at the future ACC school as she shares similarities with current rising senior Sarah Hammond.

“The style of play was also a huge factor,” she added.

With the addition of Hines-Allen, Louisville now has four talented wings and forwards on the way to campus next year. Mariya Moore of Oakland, Calif., Arianna Freeman of Manassas, Va., and Sydney Brackemyre of Cincinnati, Ohio. With the forward positions locked up for the next couple of years, look for Louisville to focus heavily on adding true post play and a point guard with their remaining scholarships. Jatarie White of Charlotte, N.C., Dekeiya Cohen of Charleston, S.C., and Gabby Green of Oakland, Calif., are players Louisville may still be looking to add to their 2014 class.

Here’s to Camp!

Bball Camp #2 2013It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything on the blog, but one of my reasons/excuses is that last week I was gone at camp. And it was a great week!

Turns out this was my 9th summer leading the Basketball 2 week of camp at Butler Springs. Our week is an interesting mix of basketball camp, cheer camp, science camp and Kids Cafe (cooking) camp. It sounds a bit different, but it works!

I had a great group of adults who served as faculty and we ended up the week with four baptisms in the camp pool and two more taking place at home. We had several campers from our home church as well as several faculty. My son and daughter served on faculty along with Joe’s girlfriend.

Here are some pics from the week:

Families discussing the theme for the day from the book of Ephesians:

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Some of the basketball skills stations

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One of the baptisms at the end of the week:

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The Rise of Louisville Athletics

20130209-191303.jpgSince Syd made the decision to go to UL, we have paid more attention to what happens to the Cardinals. Obviously the men won the National Championship in basketball and the women went to the championship game, but they have also seen success in other sports.

I saw a link to the following article on Twitter today. I don’t know much about the history of the athletic department, but according to this article, it was in bad shape. The author talks about the improvements that have occurred in the program and the steps that were taken to bring that about. He refers to the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, which interested me as well. Thought it was worth sharing.

You can read the original article on the Forbes website.

Louisville athletics was a pariah. An organization so mis-aligned, so bloated in inefficiency that the very conference it helped form had sued to expunge the university from its ranks. A desperate attempt to prevent the department’s disease of non-compliance from spreading to the other members of the league. There was little hope for Louisville, its faith seemingly sealed as terminal.

In his influential work on organizational management, “Good To Great”, author Jim Collins refers to the circumstances Louisville had fallen into as the “Doom Loop”. The organization lacked internal accountability, failed to achieve credibility within its own community and had lost all authenticity with the college athletics community as a whole. It was not that the department did not want to change, but rather that it lacked the discipline to do so.

Those were the circumstances that faced Tom Jurich when he became the athletic director at the University of Louisville in 1997. Jurich understood that if there was any chance of salvation, he needed to reconstruct the athletic department to be built upon a foundation of accountability, integrity and honesty. Then, and only then, could a culture be born that would filter its way through the department and move it slowly out of a vicious cycle of disappointing results and stalled momentum.

“The department was out of control when it came to issues like compliance and Title IX,” says Jurich. “We were staring down the barrel of a gun and potentially facing the death penalty from the NCAA. Either we made a decision right then and there to change the culture once and for all or we would forever be mired in our own self-sabotage,” he adds.

For Jurich and his leadership team, part of that process involved confronting the hardest decision a manager must ever make – replacing individuals who did not fit within the cultural boundaries they set out for the department. In fact, within the first five years of tenure, there were more than 130 changes within the staff, or almost 50% of the entire department. Such high turnover is almost unheard of from any organization with the multi-million dollar revenues, and is testament to the dire situation Louisville found itself in.

According to Jurich, “The ride [Louisville] was embarking on wouldn’t be easy – we were going to need tough, self-motivated people who were selflessly driven by their passion for the department and the university as a whole. If they weren’t hungry and humble, they weren’t getting on the bus.”

Once the wrong people were off the bus, and the organization’s cultural foundation began to take shape, Jurich’s administration was only then able to begin to systematically address the issues that were plaguing the department. The most pressing of which was gender equity, or rather the total lack thereof.

“When it came to non-compliance with Title IX, Louisville was in dire straights,” says Jurich. “We had Lamar Daniel, a leading gender equity consultant, come to campus and tell us that we were the ‘worst program he had ever seen’. Here was someone who had spent over two decades conducting investigations for the Office of Civil Rights and who was practically at a loss for words on just how bad our situation was.”

While the problem Louisville faced was evident, the solution was less clear. At the time, the department’s budget was $14.8 million, or just 17% of the $85 million it had risen to today. Just about every area of the department needed improvement and additional resources. The problem was that not only did the Cardinals need to fundraise, but also that they needed to invest the majority of the money back into women’s sports, none of which would provide any financial return on investment.

“Our backs were against the wall, but we had no choice but to do what was right. I caught a great deal of criticism in those early days as we tried to pull ourselves out of the quicksand, but the reality is that without the tremendous support of the Louisville community and our boosters, we would have never made it out. ” Jurich explains.

In the words of Jim Collins, Louisville needed to confront the brutal facts of their current reality, while retaining resolute faith that they would prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulty. Breakthrough for organizations that face such adversity comes through making good decisions, each of which is meticulously implemented and accumulated one on top of the other. Yet more importantly, without the guidance of Jurich and his senior administration, whose keen leadership focused attention away from the disillusion of the circumstance and towards the delicious potential of the future, the Cardinals’ never would have made it.

Ever so slowly, Louisville began its slow climb out the college athletics basement and towards respectability. With a blue-collar like work ethic, the department inched towards ever-greater achievements, each victory built upon the last. Yet, while that work ethic Jurich had installed helped turn the tide for Louisville, many of its teams still failed to achieve their full potential. Like most organizations that make great strides in a short time, the greatest threat they face to continued progress is the stagnation of their culture.

His solution was the installation of a philosophy known as “Louisville First, Cards Forever” or “L1C4”. The concept was simple – the name on the front of the player’s jerseys was far more important than the one on the back. Pitino wanted his players to understand that they were playing not for themselves, not even for their teammates, but for the university community as a whole. It was no surprise then that the entire Louisville athletics department soon adopted the L1C4 philosophy as its own. After all, it was the perfect epitome of the cultural mindset Jurich began to implement within the organization when he arrived a decade earlier.

L1C4 came full circle for Louisville during the quarterfinal game of the 2013 NCAA tournament against the Blue Devils of Duke. Cardinals’ guard Kevin Ware landed awkwardly after attempting to block a basket, suffering a compound fracture to his leg live on national television. The gruesome injury sent a debilitating shockwave through the team, bringing to a grinding halt to the Cardinals’ seemingly unstoppable momentum. In a single moment, the dreams of the entire Louisville nation were brought to the brink extinction, resting precariously once again on the edge. Yet the Cardinals had been there before, had seen this void and in that very moment decided that this time was different, that they would not go quietly into the night again without a fight. The Cardinals rallied around Kevin Ware, his injury a profound reminder of just how far they had come and that they no longer had an opportunity, but rather an obligation to win. The rest of course was history.

Some 15 years after Jurich took over as athletic director, the Louisville Cardinals have made history. The university became the first to win a BCS football game, a national championship in men’s basketball, play for the national championship in women’s basketball, and make the College World Series all in one year. Even more significantly, the University received an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a move that all but guarantees stability for many years to come in tumultuous college athletics landscape. For any other university, achieving even one of those feats would be cause for tremendous celebration, but for the University of Louisville, anything less would have been a disappointment.

By human nature, the majority of people do not want to hear that success comes from years of effort or discipline. They prefer to think that it emanates from some predetermined advantage or is just the luck of circumstance. The transformation that occurred at the University of Louisville was certainly not the inevitable, nor was it a function of circumstance. Rather, it is the culmination of years of calculated risk and exceptional hard work. More significantly, it serves as testament to the importance of visionary leadership, organizational buy-in, and the courage to carry on when everything seems against you.

Every morning, Tom Jurich asks his department to answer a simple question, “How are we going to wake up and become better as an athletic department next year?”

The University of Louisville stays humble and hungry.

This post was co-authored by Justin Vine.

Jason Belzer is Founder of GAME, Inc. and CSA, and a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Sports Law at Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBelzer.

U of L Elite Camp

This past weekend Syd attended the Louisville Women’s Elite Basketball Camp. Even though she was limited in what she could do, she had a good day with the team and coaching staff. Hard to believe that a year from now she will be a student at Louisville and an official member of Card Nation.

She sent this pic with the team and the coaches.

UL Elite Camp

New AAC logo

aac2Since Syd made her decision to attend the University of Louisville, we have become Cardinal fans (although I still maintain my allegiance to the Hoosiers). She is excited about playing at U of L and it’s hard to believe she will start college in just over a year.

Louisville, along with nine other schools, will be a part of the American Athletic Conference. This will be a one-year deal for Louisville as they will move to the ACC in the 2014-2015 season. The American will be a 10-team league in 2013 with Big East holdovers Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, Cincinnati and Temple along with newcomers from Conference USA in Houston, SMU, Central Florida and Memphis. In 2014, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will be added as Louisville heads to the ACC and Rutgers departs to the Big Ten.

I saw on social media the look for the logo of the new league. They chose just a single letter because the league simply wants to be known as The American. Looking forward to how Louisville fairs in this new league and then in the ACC.

Evan Gordon Coming to IU

IMG_0423[1]With all the news recently of players leaving Indiana, it is nice to see a player coming in. Several sources have reported through social media that Evan Gordon, younger brother to Eric Gordon, will finish up his college eligibility at Indiana.

IndyStar.com had this to say about the transfer:

Former North Central guard and Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon committed to Indiana on Wednesday morning.

Evan Gordon committed to Indiana on Wednesday. The Arizona State transfer will have one year to play.

The 6-3 Gordon, who has graduated from Arizona State, will be eligible to play right away at Indiana. He averaged 10.1 points for the Sun Devils as a junior after transferring from Liberty.

Gordon’s older brother, Eric, played at IU in 2007-08 and is now in the NBA with New Orleans. Evan Gordon said he will enroll in the sports administration Masters program at IU.

“There’s nothing like an Indiana kid playing for IU,” Gordon said. “Coach (Tom) Crean has that program rocking and rolling.”

Gordon visited Butler on Tuesday and said he strongly considered the Bulldogs. When he first considered transferring from Arizona State to get closer to home, he said Butler was actually his first thought.

“It seemed like a great opportunity at Butler and it would be a great opportunity,” he said. “They have a Masters program where I could have earned my teaching license and it’s obviously a winning program that is going into the Big East. That made it a tough decision.”

Gordon transferred to Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) after his junior year at North Central. He averaged 12.0 points as a freshman at Liberty and 14.1 points as a sophomore before transferring to Arizona State.

“It’s kind of crazy how I ended up back here (at Indiana),” he said. “When I left Liberty the reason was to play on a bigger stage and it was a better opportunity to do that. This chance at IU just kind of came about and was hard to turn down.”

Gordon said he is headed back to Arizona for a couple of days before returning home on Friday. He’ll start summer classes on June 10 in Bloomington.

On his visit to Indiana on Saturday, Gordon said Crean talked about him providing a scoring punch.

“They have a lack of guards coming back and need somebody with experience who can make an impact this coming season,” he said. “He talked about me being a scorer and also being a combo guard who can help out Yogi (Ferrell).”

Evan’s younger brother Eron will be a sophomore at North Central this season. He averaged more than 19 points a game as a freshman and has offers from Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska and Arizona State.

Creek Not Returning to IU

IMG_0472[1]Indiana is losing several players to graduation (including Watford and Hulls) and entrance to the NBA draft (Zeller and Oladipo). Just today I saw on Inside the Hall that Maurice Creek will be graduating and not returning to play ball at Indiana. He will look for another school where he can complete his eligibility. Since he is going to grad school, he can start playing next season.

While this is quite an exit of talent from IU, it will also mean a very young roster. According to the article, only two of the scholarship players are upperclassmen. I know Indiana has some good talent staying and coming in. It will be interesting to see how their lack of experience will affect them.

Angels at USJN Windy City

AngelsThe Cincinnati Angels have started the AAU season and competed in their second tournament last weekend in Chicago. While Syd is still sidelined with the ACL injury, she stays as involved with them as she can.

Blue Star Media had a recap article on the Chicago tourney, highlighting the 17u bracket of the weekend. They had a nice write-up on the Angels as they integrate new players onto the team.

The Cincinnati Angels’ 17 Blue squad has three players back from last season, mixed in with seven newcomers.

Don’t feel bad for coach Dante Harlan, though. His roster is as talented as they come, featuring one player who is committed to Louisville and four others rated in the top 50 of their respective classes.

So, while Harlan searches for the right mix and most effective chemistry among all of those moving parts, he has a nice trump card that any coach would envy: playing time.

Harlan has the luxury of switching out one talented player for another if he doesn’t like what he’s seeing.

“I always preach that we’re going to defend, we’re going to rebound and we’re going to take care of the ball,” he said. “You don’t have to be the most athletic kid or the fastest kid to do those things. That’s what I base (playing time) on. It’s the little things that make the difference in winning games. That’s what separates the playing time and they know that.”

A good example was evident in Saturday’s final game, a dandy encounter between the Angels and Wisconsin Playground Elite 16. The Playground Elite won 71-70 in overtime as Harlan stuck with primarily a seven-player rotation through the final 10 minutes of regulation and overtime.

On his bench at the time were three highly rated players.

“They know that basketball changes based on matchups,” Harlan said. “If there’s a five I find (that) I’m comfortable with and they’re doing the things we need to do, that five is going to stay in. And that five changes from game to game.”

The Angels finished 1-2 Saturday, but don’t look for them to suffer many losing tournaments hereafter. The roster includes sophomore Tierra Floyd (Toledo, Ohio), No. 5 in the Class of 2015; junior Alyssa Rice (Reynoldsburg, Ohio), No. 22 in the Class of 2014; along with Naomi Davenport (Cincinnati, No. 26 sophomore) and Emily Thomas (Pickerington, Ohio, No. 48 junior). Junior Sydney Brackemyre has committed to Louisville.