Rick Pitino compares Behanan to Barkley, Siva to Donovan

By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider
Pitino says Louisville sophomore Chane Behanan is the first player to remind him of Charles Barkley. (US Presswire)

There are certain guys you love talking to because, well, you know they are going to blow you away with a comment or two. Jim Calhoun has always been that way, Kevin O'Neill is a quote machine and Rick Pitino has joined elite company.

I had heard rumblings that George Mason transfer Luke Hancock's shoulder injury was still a legitimate concern, so I reached out to Pitino to try and find out whether Hancock had suffered a setback.

Pitino addressed the Hancock injury and was, as usual, entertaining and informative. Here's some of the highlights -- including some high praise for Chane Behanan:

-- 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. Pitino said he'd rather go with Hancock as Peyton Siva's backup.

"We're going to use him as the backup point guard and also at the two and the three. Russ is a not a good assist-to-turnover guy and I don't want to give him too much to think about."

-- 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," Pitino said. "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 it seriously enough. If he approached it like Peyton Siva, this young man has greatness."

Wow.

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," Pitino said. "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."

 
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