As the season evolved late last year, Cards fans high and wide realized the gift that had been blessed upon us with the arrival of freshmen Chane Behanan, who was beginning to dominate both the offensive and defensive rebounding in post-season games. As the final four run neared its end, some speculators even toyed with the thought of Chane leaving early, forgoing the “greatest years of his life” to start his career in the basketball world. We as Louisville fans all thought that was crazy, but let’s be honest, most of those speculators were K-A-Y-T-S fans who were nervous about the potential of seeing Behanan after a Pitino off-season and another year of strength.
When Montrezl Harrell opened up his recruitment due to the Virginia Tech coaching change, and later decided to attend the greatest university on the planet, one would think that Chane would take one of two paths: a.) I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can, welcoming in this young gun and showing him the ropes in the Pitino system, or b.) why is Pitino recruiting this kid when he already has a stud like me at the 4 spot? Based on the suspensions and random birdies I’ve talked to, it seems Behanan has taken the later approach.
After witnessing the first red-white scrimmage, and hearing about a few practices, I think it is fairly obvious that Behanan and Harrell go at each other in practice. They are both extremely physical players who demand the rebounds and like to lock down their opponents by out muscling them. As the season progresses, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see one or both with at least one black eye from a practice (I just hope it’s nothing more than that).
Anyone who has played sports has seen it. You always have the new guy, usually a freshman, that comes in and wants to try to earn the respect of the other guys. In this case, the freshman just so happens to be 6-8, 235lbs and plays the same position as a sophomore who is 6-6, 250lbs who thought he had already solidified his spot as a starter for the 2012-2013 season. We often see this in high school sports where a young kid will step up and make a name for himself over a player who has maybe logged a lot of minutes the year before, but rarely do we see it happen at the college level to a player the caliber of a Chane Behanan. Although I trust Pitino when he says that Chane didn’t work as hard as he should have in the off-season, I still didn’t see this coming, and I doubt Chane did either.
This could be part of the reason for the suspensions. It may take a player like Behanan some time to get over the fact that he is not in the starting line-up, but like every coach preaches to his players, “it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters who finishes.” I believe there will be plenty of games where Harrell and Behanan finish the game alongside each other.
It all will now come down to how Chane handles the change. I guess I have to go with the Jay-Z song of the day and say this is the “Gift and the Curse” for Chane. He can work and compete with Harrell to progress each other and make each other better in a healthy way, or he can pout about not having to be pushed, and play dirty with a bad attitude and the focus more on the self rather than the team.
All this is is just another Pitino test. He is pushing Behanan mentally. He wants to see how he will react to the success of a younger player starting over him. He wants to see if Chane is willing to make a sacrifice for the team rather than caring about starting. If he can get Chane to buy into the team aspect, it would be hard for any other player on the team to not buy in, because one of the best and hardest workers on the team from the year before (who was a starter) has adapted.
We could have this same situation at multiple positions; I mean, look at small forward…look at two guard. Do you start Russ-tastic or Kevin Ware? Do you start Luke Hancock or Wayne Blackshear? I think all of which will get starter minutes, and I believe the line-ups will change from game to game, depending on the match-ups, but as long as everyone buys in, it will not matter who starts, as long as everyone does their job and performs to the best of their ability. That’s the great thing about being in the top 3 again. We are worrying about guys not getting enough playing time rather than looking up and down the bench at guys who can’t play. Go Cards!