The Louisville Cardinals will be returning the majority of their championship squad from a year ago, but there will be a glaring void left at the point guard position after the departure of Big East Tournament MVP Peyton Siva.
Siva, who was drafted by the Detroit Pistons this past June, doesn’t think his departure will be an issue. As a matter of fact, Siva says the Cardinals will have more talent this year than last.
With such strong words from the former Louisville point guard, it might add a little more pressure on the new guy, Chris Jones. If that doesn’t do it, how about the 10 points, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game that Siva produced in his final year as a Cardinal. Oh, and he helped lead this team to an NCAA Championship title last season.
It would be a lofty expectation to anticipate those kind of results out of a junior college transfer. But the crazy thing is, Jones had already been doing similar things for his former JUCO team, Northwest Florida State College. As a sophomore last season, Jones averaged 21.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and three steals per game. He was the National Junior College Division I Player of the Year last year, lead his team to a 62-6 record over two seasons and was named Conference Player of the Year twice.
The most glaring differences between Jones and Siva are in scoring and rebounding. Siva only averaged 2.4 rebounds last season, nearly half of what Jones did, and Jones is only 5-foot-10. Siva wasn’t much taller at 6-feet but Jones has showed that he can remain active on the boards by using his athleticism and awareness despite his height disadvantage.
Jones is also more of a scorer than Siva, who is more of a game manager. Don’t let Jones’ size fool you; it isn’t as much of a disadvantage as you would think, at least not for him. Jones has a multitude of tricks up his sleeve to help him score at such a high rate. He uses quick moves to create separation from larger defenders, hesitations, floaters, up-fakes, that allow him to get his shot off. He’s also able to use his body to create separation when driving down the lane.
Jones may not have reached the status of Siva as far as accomplishments go but he’s done just about everything at the JUCO level and may even have more talent than Siva. It will be up to Jones and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino to harness that talent and fill the shoes of Siva. If they can do that, maybe Siva was right in saying this Louisville team is better than the last.