At Louisville, Hailey Van Lith is living up to the hype
Highly-touted prospect named ACC Freshman of the Week
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When she committed to Louisville, McDonald’s All-American Hailey Van Lith probably imagined that her home debut at the KFC Yum! Center would be a bit louder.
But because of restrictions due to COVID-19, there were just 2,614 Cardinals fans in the arena on Sunday instead of the usual 9,000-plus. Still, Van Lith was impressed with the way those fans cheered as No. 5 Louisville handed Eastern Kentucky a 101-58 whuppin’.
“We are very fortunate here, just to be able to have the amount of fans that we’re allowed to have. They do a great job of giving us energy,” she said. “Although it wasn't the typical game that I had seen on my visits, it was still a great first game at home. I really enjoyed the fans. I can't wait to play in front of them again.”
And those Louisville fans are likely itching to see Van Lith play again, too. In her first two games for the Cardinals, the nation’s seventh-best 2020 recruit, per ESPN, has lived up to the hype.
A day after she tallied 20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist against EKU, Van Lith was voted ACC Freshman of the Week by the conference’s Blue Ribbon Panel.
She is the first Louisville player to earn the honor since Asia Durr did in 2016. That’s pretty good company, needless to say.
“She played well. I think she’s been very efficient,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said of Van Lith after the win over EKU. “One of the things I’ve really talked with her about, coming from high school to this, is — you won’t need as many shots to score if you take good shots.”
Indeed, Van Lith’s shot selection has been impressive, as she’s shooting 52% from the floor in her first two games, both of which she started in.
Listed at just 5’7, Van Lith has shown a knack for rebounding early on in her college career. In addition to her 10 boards vs. EKU, she grabbed eight in her Louisville debut, a road win over Southeast Missouri State.
Knocking down threes is something she can do too, flushing five of them against EKU. A season ago, Van Lith’s veteran backcourt mate Dana Evans led the ACC in threes made (90) and outside shooting percentage (43.1%). If both are in a groove on the same night, Evans and Van Lith could make a lethal scoring duo.
“It's going to be fun,” Walz said. “If Dana and Hailey continue to develop a chemistry with each other, it could be a really exciting season to watch those two play.”
Added Van Lith: “Being a freshman coming from high school… I’m not the go-to scorer anymore. So, (Evans) is double-teamed and I’m the one getting kick-outs. So, it’s just something new and fun for me. I’m taking everything I can learn from Dana.”
A native of Wenatchee, Washington, Van Lith chose Louisville over Baylor and a handful of other perennial Top 25 teams, including Notre Dame and UConn.
Louisville’s schedule changed again on Monday when the Cardinals announced an addition to their schedule. On Friday, Van Lith and Co. will take on No. 20 DePaul in the Jimmy V Classic at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The game — tipping at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN — will mark the first time that the former Big East foes have met since the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2016.