Damion Lee Joins Cardinal Basketball
Damion Lee, an all-conference guard who has played his last three years at Drexel University, has signed a financial aid agreement at the University of Louisville to play his final collegiate basketball season with the Cardinals.
“Damion fills a big void for us in scoring,” said UofL Coach Rick Pitino. “He’s also an outstanding defensive player and is terrific at the free throw line, which is also a great asset for our team. He’s an outstanding young man with a great attitude.”
Lee will enroll in graduate school at UofL after completing his general humanities and social science degree at Drexel in June.
A member of the All-Colonial Athletic Association five-person first team and an NABC All-District 10 first team selection, Lee was the nation’s fourth-leading scorer last season, averaging 21.4 points. He also ranked among the CAA top 10 in rebounding (6.1 seventh), defensive rebounding (5.2, second), steals (1.5, fourth), field goal percentage (.438, ninth), three-point percentage (.385, ninth), free throw percentage (.887, second; 14th in the NCAA) and three-pointers per game (2.4, fifth). He led the CAA and was eighth nationally in minutes played, averaging 38.1 minutes per game. The Dragons finished last season with an 11-19 record and were sixth in the CAA.
The 6-6, 200-pound guard from Baltimore, Md., topped 20 points in 14 of his 27 games last season, including five perfomances with 30 or more points. He scored a season-high 33 points against conference-leader Northeastern on Jan. 28. He fractured his right hand early in a game against Northeastern on Feb. 21 and finished the game with 30 points, missing the team’s final three games of the season.
In addition to his first-team All-CAA selection, he was named to the CAA All-Defensive Team and All-Academic Team. His 1,538 career points in three seasons ranks 10th on the Dragons’ all-time scoring list, he is the Drexel career leader in free throw percentage (.842) and is third in career three-pointers (196). He made over 60 threes in each of his three complete seasons. He made 38 of his last 39 free throw attempts.
As a freshman, Lee averaged 12.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists and scored in double digits on 22 occasions in earning CAA Rookie of the Year honors. He led Drexel and was third in the CAA averaging 17.1 points as a sophomore and was an All-CAA second team selection. He scored in double figures in 23 games, including a career-high 34 points against Old Dominion. His 2013-14 season was cut short after just five games when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Lee was a first-team All-New England Preparatory School Athletic Council selection in 2011 when he averaged 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in helping St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn. to a 30-7 record and the National Prep School Championship.
Lee chose to attend Louisville for his final collegiate season after narrowing his choices to also include Arizona, Gonzaga, Marquette and Maryland.
Ralph Willard Joins Basketball Staff
Ralph Willard, whose 39 years of coaching experience include 19 as a collegiate head basketball coach, has joined the University of Louisville men’s basketball staff as assistant coach to Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino.
Willard, who has served as head coach for four seasons at Western Kentucky (1990-94), five years at Pittsburgh (1994-99) and 10 at Holy Cross (1999-2009), has previously coached with Pitino on three occasions. Willard was an assistant under Pitino with the NBA New York Knicks (1987-89), at the University of Kentucky (1989-90) and at Louisville (2009-10), where he also served a year with the Cardinals as Director of Basketball Operations (2010-11).
“I’ve asked Ralph Willard to come back for next year as we have a totally new basketball team,” said Pitino. “I couldn’t afford any other changes, including potentially moving David Padgett up this year because he is invaluable as our director of basketball operations. I needed someone who knows the University of Louisville and knows our program. Ralph is a great basketball mind, a great evaluator of talent and will be tremendous working with our new team. I’m really excited to welcome him back.”
“My long professional and personal relationship with Rick, past time with UofL and the program, and most importantly a complete knowledge of the defensive and offensive system, along with their teaching points, should enable a seamless transition that will allow me an opportunity to add immediate value to what I have observed to be a strong and cohesive staff,” said Willard.
“In our discussions about the possibility of my joining the staff, Rick laid out the reasons he thought this would be advantageous for the program and give him the best situation to maximize the development of a very young team. I look forward with great anticipation to joining the staff, teaching and coaching these young men, and doing whatever Rick feels would add the most value to the staff and the program. I can’t wait to get started.”
After leaving the Cardinals in 2011, Willard worked as a consultant for Holy Cross for two years before serving as a scout for the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2013-14 season.
Eight of Willard’s collegiate teams won 20 or more games, including four that won as many as 25. His teams participated in postseason competition on nine occasions, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.
Willard compiled a 192-117 record in 10 seasons at Holy Cross, his alma mater, while guiding five teams to postseason competition (NCAA Tournament in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007; NIT in 2005). Holy Cross advanced to the Patriot League tournament championship game seven of the last nine years and Willard had a 17-6 record in the event.
Second in career coaching victories at Holy Cross, Willard built the Crusaders’ program from one that had won just 22 games collectively in the three years prior to his arrival there. A three-time choice for the Patriot League Coach of the Year, he led the Crusaders to three straight league tournament titles in 2001-03, marking the first time in conference history that a team had accomplished that feat.
Willard gained his first collegiate head coaching position at Western Kentucky, where he produced an 81-42 record in four years. In his third season there in 1992-93, the Hilltoppers were 26-6, reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, and achieved WKU’s highest national ranking in 22 years (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP in the final polls).
He was the head coach at Pittsburgh for five seasons, including finishing fifth in the BIG EAST in 1996-97 when his team produced an 18-15 mark. While at Pitt, Willard helped to develop a pair of NBA Draft picks in Mark Blount (Seattle SuperSonics) and Vonteego Cummings (Indiana Pacers).
Prior to his first collegiate head coaching position in 1990, Willard compiled 19 years of coaching experience. After one year as an assistant at the Merchant Marine Academy (1971-72), he spent 13 years as the head coach of his high school alma mater, St. Dominic (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), where he posted a 162-89 mark. He received five conference coach of the year honors there and his 1980 squad won the New York Class B Championship with a 24-3 record. St. Dominic is also the high school alma mater of Pitino.
He returned to the collegiate ranks in 1984 as an assistant coach at Hofstra, followed by a year on Jim Boeheim’s staff at Syracuse, where he helped the 1986-87 Orangeman team reach the national championship game. Willard left the college game for two seasons to serve under Pitino with the Knicks, before following Pitino to Kentucky, where he served as the Wildcats’ associate head coach for one season.
A 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, Willard was a three-year letterwinner and served as the 1966-67 team captain as a senior when the Crusaders posted a 16-9 mark.
Willard and his wife, Dorothy, have three children: Pamela, Keith, and Kevin, who is a former UofL assistant coach under Pitino (2001-07) and is currently the head men’s basketball coach at Seton Hall.
Willard replaces Wyking Jones, who was an assistant coach with the Cardinals for the last four seasons.
Ralph Willard’s Coaching Experience
Years School / Team Position
1971-1972 Merchant Marine Academy Assistant Coach
1972-1984 St. Dominic H.S. (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) Head Coach
1984-1985 Hofstra Assistant Coach
1986-1987 Syracuse Assistant Coach
1987-1989 New York Knicks (NBA) Assistant Coach
1989-1990 Kentucky Associate Head Coach
1990-1994 Western Kentucky Head Coach
1994-1999 Pittsburgh Head Coach
1999-2009 Holy Cross Head Coach
2009-2010 Louisville Assistant Coach
2015-current Louisville Assistant Coach
Ralph Willard’s Collegiate Head Coaching Record
Season School W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Place Postseason
1990-91 Western Kentucky 14-14 .500 8-6 .571 Third
1991-92 Western Kentucky 21-11 .656 10-6 .625 Fourth NIT First Round
1992-93 Western Kentucky 26-6 .813 14-4 .778 Second NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1993-94 Western Kentucky 20-11 .645 14-4 .778 First NCAA First Round
1994-95 Pittsburgh 10-18 .357 5-13 .278 Ninth
1995-96 Pittsburgh 10-17 .370 5-13 .278 11th
1996-97 Pittsburgh 18-15 .545 10-8 .556 Fifth NIT Second Round
1997-98 Pittsburgh 11-16 .407 6-12 .333 10th
1998-99 Pittsburgh 14-16 .467 5-13 .278 11th
1999-00 Holy Cross 10-18 .357 3-9 .250 Fifth
2000-01 Holy Cross 22-8 .733 10-2 .833 First NCAA First Round
2001-02 Holy Cross 18-15 .545 9-5 .643 Second NCAA First Round
2002-03 Holy Cross 26-5 .839 13-1 .929 First NCAA First Round
2003-04 Holy Cross 13-15 .464 7-7 .500 Fifth
2004-05 Holy Cross 25-7 .781 13-1 .929 First NIT Second Round
2005-06 Holy Cross 20-12 .625 11-3 .786 Second
2006-07 Holy Cross 25-9 .735 13-1 .929 First NCAA First Round
2007-08 Holy Cross 15-14 .517 5-9 .357 Eighth
2008-09 Holy Cross 18-14 .563 11-3 .786 Second
Career Totals (19 Yrs) 336-241 .582 172-120 .589 Six NCAAs, Three NITs
Cards to Compete in Puerto Rico in August
The University of Louisville men’s basketball team will play as many as six games against national teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic during a week-long trip to Puerto Rico in August.
The Cardinals will face the Puerto Rico National Team, the Puerto Rico Junior National Team and the Dominican Republic National Team during their Aug. 10-17 visit to Puerto Rico. Details on game dates will be available at a later date.
The competition coincides with UofL Coach Rick Pitino’s decision to serve as the head coach of the Puerto Rico basketball team in two international events this summer. During the games in Puerto Rico, Pitino will coach the Puerto Rico team while his UofL assistant coaches will direct the Cardinals. The opportunity to face off against the Puerto Rican teams was among the top reasons that Pitino took the position.
Pitino will coach the Puerto Rico team in the Pan American Games on July 21-25 in Toronto, Canada. He will also coach the team in a 10-team, pre-Olympic FIBA qualifying tournament in Monterrey, Mexico on Aug. 25-Sept. 5, where the top two teams qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Louisville last participated in a foreign trip with its team in August of 2011, when the Cardinals played local professional teams in the Bahamas during their visit. UofL attained a waiver to allow the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a United States territory, to serve as the destination for the team’s foreign trip. The Cardinals will have 10 days of practice in Louisville prior to leaving on August 10.
Louisville recently visited Puerto Rico for the 2014 Armed Forces Classic, facing Minnesota in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico in a hangar at US Air Station Borinquen. Prior to the game, the Cardinals toured an MH-65 Coast Guard helicopter, spent time on Crash Boat Beach, watched a helicopter rescue demonstration near the beach, boarded a Coast Guard cutter anchored off the coast and spent time with the Coast Guard families stationed there.