LOUISVILLE — Another missing piece to Louisville’s basketball team could finally make his season debut this week, leaving only injured center Malik Williams on the sideline.
Graduate transfer Charles Minlend, who has been out of action since November 5 due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, has returned to full practice, coach Chris Mack said Monday during the ACC coaches’ teleconference.
“He’s coming along great,” Mack said. “We’re excited to add him into the fold. We’ve missed him. He provides leadership and some perimeter help as well.”
The coach indicated that the 6-foot-4 guard from the University of San Francisco could see his first action in road games against Wake Forest on Wednesday or Miami on Saturday, although he didn’t fully commit to putting him on the court quite yet.
“I think going from rehab to playing, there’s a conditioning element, there’s a timing element, there’s a confidence element that hopefully he gains even more over the next few days of practice. But there’s nothing we’re doing in practice that he’s not a part of at this point, so I expect Charles to be on the floor at some point and continue to improve in all areas I just talked about — conditioning, timing. It’s a big jump when you’ve been out as long as he has.”
Minlend, from Concord, N.C., averaged 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a junior at San Francisco last year, and was named to the All-West Coast Conference second team. Just hours prior to his injury, Minlend had told reporters that his biggest adjustment from the Dons to the Cardinals involved an increased emphasis on defense in Mack’s program.
“My footwork defensively, like the way I would close out, is completely opposite to how I did it before,” Minlend said. “So just retraining my brain to close out in a different way when someone get the ball and then also guarding in a different way while that’s going on. It’s been an adjustment, I’m not going to lie. It’s been challenging. I think I can figure it out, but it’s happening a little slower than I wanted it to.”
When ACC-co-leader U of L (8-1, 3-0) tips off against Wake (3-3, 0-3) at 8:30 p.m. ET in Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Cards will be coming off an unscheduled week-long layoff necessitated by the cancellation of last Saturday’s home game against Georgia Tech, which is paused due to COVID-19 issues. Even though U of L was idle, though, it moved up in the national polls — to No. 16 in the AP rankings and No. 18 in the Coaches poll.
The Cards enter the week tied with No. 19 Duke and No. 18 Virginia for the league lead. The Cavaliers (7-2 overall) also have two games this week, hosting Notre Dame (3-7, 0-4) on Wednesday, then playing at No. 12 Clemson (9-1) Saturday. The Blue Devils’ (5-2) only game is at Virginia Tech (9-2, 3-1) Tuesday.
During the break, Mack said he shortened practices and was able to concentrate on specific areas of improvement for his team without having to prepare for an upcoming opponent.
“There were some things we wanted to do with the team to work on that had nothing to do with an opponent,” he said. “We did some scrimmaging, we did a lot of situational work, time and score, minute left in the game, down three. Stuff like that so our guys could gain some experience that way.
“I think it made practice a little more enjoyable for them. Coaches always enjoy practice, maybe players don’t always enjoy it. Just tried to keep their attention. We took off yesterday and now our attention is focused on Wake Forest and bettering ourselves. So it’s not as long of a break as you think when you’re in it.”