University of Louisville senior Kyle Kuric is preparing himself for a memorable final season this coming year. His coming of age and development over the three previous seasons reminds me of guys like Eric Johnson and Larry O’Bannon. So what has King Kyle been working on this summer to take his game to the next level?
“I think the most obvious thing for me I need to work on is creating my own shot and being able to put the ball on the floor. Not just shooting threes or just getting my shot only off someone else’s penetration, but being able to create my own shot is the first thing I am working on. Outside of that I want to work obviously is defense, quickness, jumping ability, and other things like that. Also me personally I want to be able to shoot even better this year with more consistency. I want to shoot an even better percentage and have confidence in that,” said Kuric. “I am doing a bunch of stuff here as well as a lot of things I have never done before. I am training with Peyton and some of the other fellas, as well as working on explosive quickness training. I have picked up yoga and several other things as well.”
Out of high school Kuric was offered preferred walk-on status to join Louisville and Butler was his most prestigious official scholarship offer with Indiana University offering a scholarship late in the process. His rise to a possible preseason All Big East selection has been unbelievable; so does he have a chip on his shoulder to stick it to all those who passed him over?
“Well my freshman year was a disappointment in my eyes even though maybe not to some. I didn’t really see myself as an all Big East selection, but in high school being a focal point at that level with all the time I have put in I could see some of it. This is something I have put a lot of work into and wanted to achieve and I am still looking to achieve more,” said Kuric.
Unlike previous seasons Kuric is now being looked to as a leader off the court as well as on and he is taking things in stride.
“Well this year for me personally is different than all the previous seasons. This year it is not just about working on things on the basketball court but also working on leadership and getting other guys into this system and to work hard as possible. It is a different situation than it has been but I am accepting it and trying to do the best that I can,” said Kuric. “To us it has been the same as it has been really, but for the new guys it has been something different of course. But we are also doing different things and extra stuff also we’re not just lifting, we’re not just playing pick-up, we’re not just doing the things we are supposed to do. We may have two guys here lifting, and two guys there playing, and we are trying to do as much as possible to get us ready for this year.”
With so many returning players Louisville will enjoy being one of the most experienced teams in the country. Has that experience paid dividends so far?
“Continuity has been there for now as we have only had one or two guys here so far to get acclimated to the process and the system. It has been easier for them because there are just a couple of them so far, but we have like three or four more guys coming in so even though we have had some familiarity with the returning guys it will be about getting all the new guys up to speed as quickly as possible,” said Kuric.
Preseason rankings have placed the Cardinals in the top 10 in most projections to begin the season, and Joe Lunardi sees the Louisville as a Final Four contender. How good can this team be this year?
“I think we can be as good as we want to be. It is very simple if we put in the work we need to which we are I think we can be as good as we want. I don’t want to say getting out of the first round is our primary focus, but it is a goal,” said Kuric. “We were right there for the Big East regular season championship and we were right there for the Big East tournament championship with a team everybody didn’t think should be there. So I would say Big East regular season and tournament championship as well as Elite Eight and Final four is where we are setting our sights right now.”
One piece of news that caused quite a stir in Red and Black nation was the news that Kuric has been moved to walk-on status though he is a starter and projected team captain for the upcoming season. So the million dollar question is what does Kyle think about being one of the most talented walk-ons in program history?
“It all started last year when Coach talked to my parents and he told them he may need my scholarship this year or last year. He said he may or may not need it and if they would have the money to go ahead and pay my way. And they said they did so that is how this whole thing came about. Then they talked to me about it and I told them I didn’t have a problem with it. As far as being viewed as a scholarship player or as a walk on I could really care less. If you see me as a walk on that is your loss and that means you are going to underestimate me,” said Kuric.
Kuric is coming off a season that saw him hit career highs of 10.8 PPG while shooting a blistering 51% from the field and 45% from three point range while hitting the 20 point mark on 6 separate occasions. So what are his personal goals for the upcoming season?
“Well if I score 20 points in a game but we lose then it doesn’t matter. Whether I score 20 points a game or 5 points a game I am going to play whatever style I need to for us to win. I mean I was looked over a bit in high school, but that is just the way it is. Coach P took a gamble and Coach McCarty helped out a lot and it benefitted me and them as well,’ said Kuric.
With pick-up games in full swing at the SAC there have been reports that there has been some marked improvement from a number of the returning players. Who has impressed Kuric the most so far this summer?
“Some things are looking good and some things are looking bad, but it is pick-up so that is how it is. Russ has been playing really well and we are working on him passing the ball off his penetration into the lane. He is really quick and no one can really keep him out of the lane so getting in his head to set up his teammate like Peyton did last year could really benefit him and really benefit our team,” said Kuric. “Gorgui has really improved, Peyton, Chris, everybody is getting better, and we are trying to get the new guys to concentrate a little bit more on the defensive end.”
Though there are only two of the five freshmen on campus so far Kyle does believe both will make an impact on the upcoming season.
“With TJ leaving this year that really leaves some open opportunities at the 5. Zach will have some opportunities to step in there and battle with Gorgui every day and they both will be better for that and benefit us. We are really deep at the 3 and the 4 so Chane is really skilled and the other guys at that position are really skilled as well so that will be a great competition as well. Them being there early and get what we are trying to teach them will really help them out and be very beneficial,” said Kuric.
For all the highlight plays from last year’s magical regular season, the clear top moment came in a road game vs. Notre Dame when Kuric threw down a thunderous slam on Irish forward Scott Martin. It was selected as college dunk of the year by Fox Sports. So where did those hops come from?
“I have worked on my vertical jump since I was in seventh or eighth grade. I have always worked on that and I have always worked on my shooting. People look at me and see I can shoot and probably can’t jump very high so that started a long time ago. So I surprised people in AAU and even when I got here too and finally in a game,” said Kuric.
Can we look for a repeat this coming year and see Kyle go back to back for dunk of the year?
“I hope so,” said Kuric with a laugh. “It is not something I am focusing on, but hopefully I can make that happen.”