What J’Vonne Hadley Brings to Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Over his first couple weeks on the job, Pat Kelsey has done a great job on the roster construction front.

Not only has the new Louisville’s men’s basketball head coach gotten the Cardinals in the mix for some high profile transfers, he has landed a few as well. He was able to get both Reyne Smith and James Scott to follow him from Charleston, then landed a commitment from former James Madison guard/forward and 2024 Sun Belt Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr.

As good as those three are, at some point, Louisville was going to have to land a power five transfer with significant experience and production. Well, that’s exactly what they got on Tuesday, with former Colorado guard J’Vonne Hadley committing to the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-6, 205-pound shooting guard played a key role in one of Colorado’s best seasons in program history. Playing and starting all but one of the Buffaloes’ 37 games, Hadley averaged 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while also shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 83.9 percent from the free-throw line. He was also 41.7 percent on threes, but took just 48 attempts.

The St. Paul, Minn. native helped Colorado go 26-11 overall on the 2023-24 season, which set a school record for most wins, and reach the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. In six games between the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament, Hadley averaged 8.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

But beyond his stat lines, what else does Hadley bring to the table for the Cardinals?

Something that stands out very quickly when watching film of Hadley is that, while he is very much a guard, he typically plays much bigger than what you would expect from one. He is very good at posting up on the block. He has good amount of post moves in his arsenal, thanks in part to how well he moves his feet and how he uses his body to leverage himself, and routinely takes advantage of mismatches. In halfcourt sets, Hadley also does a solid job of cutting to the rim when a little farther away from the basket.

Another notable aspect of Hadley’s game is that he shines in transition. He gets back on offense insanely fast after an opponent’s possession ends, and can sometimes sneak past the last defender before they even notice. He does a good job of sitting back in anticipation for the pass while a 2-on-2 or 2-on-1 bites on the ball handler. He also can drive from the wing in transition smoothly.

Additionally, Hadley is an exceptional finisher around the rim. 72 percent of his total field goal attempts came at the rim, and he connected on these attempts at a 62 percent clip. When fouled on his attempts at the rim, he typically makes the defense pay for that, as he shot 83.9 percent from the free throw line (3rd in Pac-12).

An under-utilized part of Hadley’s game is his efficient three-point shot. He scored 1.53 points per possession on spot-up three-pointers, but only took 48 total threes all season long. When he takes an open shot in that area in between the wing and corner, he’s very likely going to hit it.

While Hadley isn’t a floor general type of guard, his ability to actually pass the ball does shine through every once in a while. Specifically, he’s good at getting the ball to a cutting player when posted up on his defender, even if it’s through traffic. His length and propensity to find mismatches is what also makes him a good rebounder.

Defensively, while his stat line might not suggest that he is a top end defender, the film and advanced stats don’t lie. He’s a pest that brings a gritty presence on that end of the floor, and his length and overall size won’t make it easy on you. According to BartTorvik, Hadley was the No. 88 player in the country by their D-PORPAGATU metric, which is an alternate defensive efficiency metric.

In fact, here’s a ludicrously obscure stat for everyone. Last season, there were only five power six players with a PORPAGATU of 4.25 or more, a D-PORPAGATU of 3.8 or more, and a true shooting percentage of 63.0 percent or more. Who were those five players? Purdue’s Zach Edey, UConn’s Cam Spencer, Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner, Oregon’s N’Faly Kante and Hadley.

Why isn’t Hadley more natioanlly known? Well, despite the fact that he played in 82.4 percent of Colorado’s minutes, his usage rate was only 15.7 percent, which was sixth on the team. When you have guys like K.J. Simpson and Tristen de SIlva, it’s hard to be the focal point.

Overall, this is a fantastic pickup for Louisville. While he might not be the focal point of the Cardinals’ team next season (dependent on what the rest of the roster actually looks like), he will likely go down as one of their more important pickups this offseason. He is the epitome of a “glue guy” that you hear about so much about with some of these upper tier teams.

(Photo of J’Vonne Hadley via University of Louisville Athletics)

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