For the second time in three days, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino appeared on a local radio show to talk all things Cardinal basketball. This time he came on the Early Birds program with Drew Deener and spoke about this weekend’s scrimmage, the health of the team, high expectations and how the players are progressing. Here’s a summary and you can check out the full podcast of the interview here.
- As he mentioned the other day, the starting five right now remains Kevin Ware, Peyton Siva, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Gorgui Dieng. The second team is Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Angel Nunez, Chane Behanan and either Zach Price or Stephan Van Treese in the middle.
- On Luke Hancock’s rehab and current health: “You’re never 100% coming off an injury like that. He hasn’t played organized basketball (in a game setting) in two years and you have to get in basketball shape…he’s very rusty. I’d like to see him get 20-22 minutes on Saturday and just ease him back into things”
- On the severity of Hancock’s injury and whether it was similar to Blackshear’s from a year ago: “It was much worse. He shattered the entire thing. He’s now had both shoulders surgically repaired. When Wayne came back, he was out of shape. That’s not the case with Luke. He’s been running stadium stairs like Rocky and he’s thin and in good shape – not basketball up and down shape – but good overall shape. We’ll probably give him 2 days off each week and build him into the team slowly.”
- On whether one guy has dominated his position: “Nobody, including Peyton, is dominating their position. Peyton has to go against Russ every day and Russ isn’t going to be dominated by anyone. I never thought I’d say that, but he’s become that good defensively. Wayne has to go against Luke, Montrezl against Chane. It’s great competition for these guys. If anybody is sticking out, it’s Kevin Ware. Athletically he’s just been tremendous.”
- On Ware’s development: “He’s worked really hard on changing his jump-shooting form, something I wish Chane would do more. He’s keeping the ball out in front of his head and he’s releasing it at the proper point. Russ, Wayne and Chane all have “dart” shots that have very little arc and have flat trajectory towards the rim. Kevin had it too, but he’s worked hard to correct it.”
- On where the shooting will come from this year: “We’re not gonna be a great shooting team. But now we have way more playmakers. Kevin, Wayne, Russ and Peyton can all make plays off the dribble. We should still make 6-8 three’s a game, but we’ll be a different looking offensive team, this year. We shot a low percentage last year primarily as a jump-shooting team, so this year we’ll change things up.”
- On whether he thought this team would be so highly ranked: “Any time you win your conference tournament, go to a Final Four, have the nation’s number one field goal percentage defense and return most of your key players, this sort of thing happens. Last year I think the media thought we were counterfeit when we got up to like 4th in the country in the polls, but this year it seems legit given the players and experience.”
- On Mangok Mathiang redshirting: “He’ll probably redshirt. At this point he’s just not ready to play. He’s just like Gorgui was when he came in as a freshman. We don’t totally need him because of Gorgui, Montrezl, Stephan, Chane and Zach, so this would give him time to work on his body and improve. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team, and we have an outstanding recruiting class coming in next year so now he can join them and have four years of eligibility left.
- On Mike Marra’s role: He’ll be rehabilitating with the team and recently Scotty Davenport came to me and asked if he’d be willing to go to Bellarmine for two years and play and work on his master’s degree. Mike’s still scared of tearing his knee for a third time so right now he’s not in that basketball-playing mentality. But I told him to think about it and wait several months before making a decision. Once he begins to rehab he might end up missing the game and you only get to play once in your lifetime. So, we’ll wait on it for a bit and then see what he thinks in the spring. This is a special group of young men and he wants to be around them.”