By Jeff Goodman
Rick Pitino admits his team overachieved last season.
It’s difficult not to agree.
Louisville wasn’t all that talented, yet managed to win 25 games and get to the Big East championship game.
``For the next two years, we’ll have the type of talent we need,” Pitino said. ``Last year we weren’t confident in any game we went into. We were confident in our preparation and our approach, but we didn’t have the size and ability.”
The Cardinals lost leading scorer Preston Knowles and the enigma that was Terrence Jennings, but added a strong freshman class which includes four Top 100 players.
Pitino will bring in Top 25 players Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan as well as big man Zach Price and late signee Kevin Ware.
Blackshear and Behanan should be key contributors immediately, while Price is slated to be the back-up center – and Ware’s role is still unclear.
Pitino and the Cards just returned from a six-day trip to the Bahamas in which the team played four games.
What Pitino learned: Who is fundamentally ready to play – and who isn’t. The competition wasn’t very good, but now I know what to work on once we start individuals. Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Kyle Kuric are ready to play right away. If we opened up tomorrow, they could play. The rest of the guys could not.”
What or who impressed him: ``By far the best player was Peyton Siva. When he came here, he was a combo guard. Now he’s a true point guard.”
What concerned him: ``I don’t worry about it, but our freshmen don’t know how to play the game. But that’s true for most freshmen. (Jamal) Mashburn was the only freshman since I’ve been coaching who came in and knew how to play.”
- Freshmen Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware did not make the tip because they were both taking summer courses. Pitino said both are scheduled to arrive on campus, with the rest of the team, on Sunday, and he doesn’t expect any issues with them getting through the NCAA Clearinghouse.
- Pitino said that freshman Angel Nunez, who has a similar body type to that of former Louisville star Francisco Garcia, is well-behind Garcia on the defensive end. ``Francisco needed work,” Pitino said. ``And he’s light years behind Francisco.”
- Dieng, who Pitino feels will be among the nation’s leaders in block shots, is up to 232 pounds. ``He’s a good player, not a great player,” Pitino said. ``I think he can be a great player his junior and senior years. He needs to get up to 255 pounds.”
- Pitino said that in addition for the trip being beneficial for the players, it was also an advantage for his staff – which completely turned over. Richard Pitino is back after a couple years in Gainesville and Pitino also brought on Kevin Keatts from Hargrave Military Academy and Wyking Jones, who spent last season at New Mexico.
- Pitino also said he had no idea when the game between the Kentucky Legends and the Dominican Republic national team, coached by John Calipari, was slated to be played in Louisville at the Yum! Center. Well, the game is set for tomorrow night. ``I honestly had no idea," Pitino said.
CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips
Photo via Louisville athletics