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Pitino says his Louisville team is ready for Bahamas trip

CBSSports.com wire reports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino says his team is in good shape as it prepares to leave for the Bahamas.

The Cardinals leave next Monday for Nassau, where they will play two games against Bahamian professional teams and will have a pair of intrasquad scrimmages.

"They're in very good shape at this point in the season," Pitino said. "We haven't got a whole lot accomplished yet but this will be the week we'll get after it a little harder than we have in the past. The guys are doing a good job. We don't expect a lot of different changes, but we wish that we had everybody back."

Louisville was allotted 10 days of practice prior to leaving for the Bahamas. The Cardinals had three days of practice in mid-July, two this past weekend and began their final five practices on Wednesday.

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"I think every coach will tell you practice is much more beneficial than the games," Pitino said at a Wednesday press conference. "You can tell more from practice, especially when you're not sure about the competition, but the two red-white games will be very good for us."

The Cardinals, who return three starters and 10 lettermen from a team that surprised with a 25-10 record last season, will be without several players on the trip. That includes senior forward Jared Swopshire and junior forward Rakeem Buckles, who are out with injuries. Freshmen Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware, who have been finishing summer school, also are out. Blackshear is also recovering from April shoulder surgery.

Pitino said Swopshire, who missed all of last season with a groin injury that required surgery, recently went to Philadelphia to have minor surgery in an attempt to clean out some scar tissue.

The Louisville coach seemed optimistic that all of those players will be in uniform when the Cardinals begin their season. He said he expects Swopshire to begin workouts in late August and Buckles, who is rehabilitating a knee injury, to be back at the start of fall practice.

Pitino also said 6-foot-10 freshman Zach Price, who recently suffered a concussion during a "freak accident" in his dorm when he hit his head on a doorway, would make the trip. Fellow frosh Chane Behanan and Angel Nunez will make the trip.

"This trip, it's going to help Chane Behanan, it's going to help Zach Price, it's going to help us tell if Angel Nunez can play this year," said Pitino, who indicated he is considering redshirting Nunez, a slender 6-7 forward from the Bronx, N.Y.

Meanwhile Pitino said Behanan, a 6-7 forward who "will play a lot of minutes for us" next season, will likely start on the trip along with four returning players -- junior guard Peyton Siva, senior guards Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric and sophomore center Gorgui Dieng.

"Chane reminds me of so many players I've seen in the past, going back way to [former Louisville star] Rodney McCray or Ryan Gomes, who played at Providence," Pitino said. "Chane is just a terrific potential that's not fundamentally sound. What he has to learn, he's got a natural gift for the game of basketball, he doesn't understand the fundamentals of the game. There are few high players that do. He doesn't understand stance, he doesn't understand defensive positioning, he doesn't understand how to be a great scorer, he floats on the perimeter too much that's why he wasn't a great scorer in high school.

"But in terms of getting it, physically being ready right now and understanding the game, he's got it."

Behanan's development, as well as that of his teammates, could be crucial to the Cardinals, whose schedule for next season includes non-conference games against Kentucky, Memphis, Butler and Vanderbilt before Big East games against defending national champion Connecticut. They'll also face Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova, Cincinnati, Marquette, West Virginia and two games each against Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

"That's why this trip is so good for us," Pitino said. "We're going to have to be ready very early on in the season. Obviously we're looking forward to the trip. It's something when you can mix business with pleasure, it'll be exciting for the guys."

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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