Pitino readies restructured Louisville to repeat
by C.L. Brown, USA TODAY Sports
Eight hours of practice time per week has allowed University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino just enough of a window to feel good about the summer his players are having.
Pitino joked the biggest challenge wasn’t in keeping his team hungry for another national title run, but in remembering what conference the Cardinals are playing this season. His greater concern came from losing center Gorgui Dieng and guard Peyton Siva to the NBA.
“When you lose a Peyton Siva you not only lose a great player but you lose a great attitude,” Pitino said. “I don’t know if we can replace that attitude of Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva, but I think we can replace the abilities of those athletes.”
Starting at point guard, where Pitino said junior college transfer Chris Jones has lived up to his considerable advanced hype. He’s been especially pleased with the battles Jones and co-captain Russ Smith have had in practice.
“Russ and Chris going at it is something to behold,” Pitino said. “I put them on opposite teams just to make Russ better, make Chris better.”
Pitino reiterated what junior guard Kevin Ware said a month ago in that he could be back playing by October. Pitino said X-rays were showing the broken right leg Ware suffered in the Elite Eight win over Duke was healing.
Even if Ware’s rehabilitation process is somewhat slowed, the Cards backcourt looks like it’s coming together for Pitino. He said freshmen guards Terry Rozier and Anton Gill were solid in early practices. And he again at the announcement of the Final Four floor being sold, took time to praise Tim Henderson’s role in helping to win the national title.
“I’ll tell you right now, this is a very, very strong backcourt,” said Pitino, who added that in aiming for a third straight Final Four it had to stay formidable.
“You can overcome weakness in the frontcourt, but you can’t overcome weakness in the backcourt to maintain the level that you want to maintain.”
Speaking on the frontcourt, Pitino said forward Montrezl Harrell, who won a gold medal with the Under-19 U.S. National Team, would return … [For more on Pitino readies restructured Louisville team for title-repeating quest, click here.]