Separated at birth (minus 30 years) – Behanan and Barkley
CBS national college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman caught up with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino today and got a full update on the team, as well as some crafty comparisons to some NBA greats. Never one to shy away from an analogy or player comparison (whether it’s a stretch or not), Pitino gives some solid insight into Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva and even the newest addition to the team, Mangok Mathiang. Rick, apparently taking time away from his new side job as an internet comedian (J/K) seems to love this team, and for the first time since he arrived here, seems to genuinely buy into the fact that he has a true contender. Here’s an excerpt and you can read the entire thing right here.
– We’ll start with Hancock, even though the Behanan comments were why I wound up writing this entry. “He’ll be ready to play in about two weeks,” Pitino said. Hancock, who sat out last season after transferring in from George Mason, had shoulder surgery in May. He has had issues with both shoulders. “We’re going to use him as the backup point guard and also at the two and the three.” Pitino said he’d rather go with Hancock as Peyton Siva’s backup. “Russ is a not a good assist-to-turnover guy and I don’t want to give him too much to think about,” Pitino said.
– Here’s the one that blew me away, the one I was waiting for from Pitino — and it’s on sophomore big man Chane Behanan. “He’s the first guy I’ve seen that reminds me of Charles Barkley since I’ve been coaching. They are both undersized, both can really rebound the ball. Chane has tree-trunk legs, but is extremely light on his feet.” Pitino said Behanan’s off-court issues could be what stands in the way of him reaching his potential. “If he doesn’t get distracted, and puts basketball at number one, he can be as good as it gets. He’s much better than I thought he was as a player. He’s got so much natural ability, but doesn’t take is seriously enough. If he approached it like Peyton Siva, this young man has greatness.”
That’s one hell of a statement. The 6-foot-6 Behanan was effective at times last season, averaging 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a freshman. He was in double-figures in each of the Cardinals five NCAA tournament games, including a near double-double against Kentucky in the national semifinals.
But he was inconsistent — and much of it has to do with his mental approach.
“He just needs to be focused,” Pitino said. “And he can be a star.”
– The most impressive player in offseason workouts, according to Pitino, may be Kevin Ware. Remember, this is a kid who was ineligible the first semester a year ago and was too far behind to make an impact. However, they have changed the mechanics of his shot — and he’s looked terrific. Ware averaged just 5.3 minutes per game last season after becoming eligible in December.
– Wayne Blackshear, the most highly regarded of all the players who came into the program a year ago, is healthy and in good shape. “My only criticism of him is that he’s always getting nicked up. As a player, he’s strong and tough. He doesn’t back down.”
– Pitino is high on the newest addition, 6-foot-10 Mangok Mathiang — who was born in the Sudan, but lived in Australia for a few years. He thought about redshirting Mathiang, but he’s been cleared and is eligible. “He’s got a great future,” Pitino said.
– Here’s a great quote on Peyton Siva: “I never thought I’d say that anyone had the character of Billy Donovan, but this kid is right there with Billy.”
– Pitino banned his players from using Twitter two years ago and that won’t change anytime soon. “Tweeting is necessary in some professions, but it’s not a necessity for college basketball players. I don’t believe it helps with humility.”