Rick Pitino Updates The State Of His Team

Andy Lyons - Getty Images

With just three days to go before their season-opening Red/White scrimmage, U of L head coach Rick Pitino gave Louisville fans a number of updates on the 2012-13 Cardinals.

Rick Pitino appeared on "The Early Birds" show with Drew Deener this morning and gave Louisville fans a large number of tidbits to munch on heading into Saturday's Red/White scrimmage.

You can listen to the full interview here, or just check out the highlights below.

--The format of Saturday's Red/White scrimmage will be a regular 40-minute game. They're going to play at a fast pace, and he's hoping each team will finish with less than 20 turnovers. Anything more than that would be a bad sign.

--Last year's team shot such a low percentage (he thinks they were the lowest percentage shooting team to make a Final Four in 50 years) because they were a very poor passing team. We only had two players last year with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. We have to really pick it up in terms of not turning the ball over.

--The starting five on Saturday will be Peyton Siva, Kevin Ware, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Gorgui Dieng, and that is the team's current starting five. The starters on the second team will be Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Angel Nunez, Chane Behanan and either Stephan Van Treese or Zach Price.

--Luke Hancock is very rusty and he's not 100% back in basketball shape. Pitino would like to see him play about 26 minutes on Saturday, with Angel Nunez playing the rest of the way in his spot.

--Luke's shoulder injury was much worse than Wayne Blackshear's. He's now had surgery on both shoulders. The difference is Wayne never got in shape last year, while Luke is in fabulous shape. He's been running the stairs at the football stadium just about every day.

--Peyton Siva has not dominated practice the way he did last year, not because he hasn't played well but because he's going against Russ Smith every day. "Russ is way too good a defensive player to be dominated...and I never thought I would say that in my lifetime."

--The only guy who has stuck out in practice has been Kevin Ware. He is a difference maker because of his athleticism.

--Gorgui has not dominated his position, and that's a very, very positive sign.

--Kevin Ware has worked really hard on his shooting form, something Pitino wishes Chane Behanan would work as hard on. Kevin and Wayne shoot the basketball like they're throwing darts (below their head with low trajectory). Kevin has really worked hard on improving that. Wayne and Russ do the same thing. Wayne is working on it, and Russ needs to see himself on tape more to realize what he's doing.

--This is not going to be a great 3-point shooting team, but we have guys who can really score. We're going to make 6-8 threes a game this season. It's not going to be our strength this season, but it's also not going to be a weakness.

--If Russ is going to keep taking so many 3-pointers, then he's going to have to make more this season if he wants to keep earning major minutes.

--Anytime you win the Big East Tournament and go to the Final Four and have a bunch of returning players, it's understandable that preseason expectations are going to be high.

--Last year was all about focus because of all the early injuries, this year the theme is humility. In this state there is so much hype surrounding basketball, and the big test for our guys is not to buy into all the things they're hearing around the area.

--There are three states in the country that haven't bought into the notion that you have to change your entire culture because of football: Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas. "We have maintained a level of normalcy" where we don't force all the other sports to travel great lengths to play games just because we're trying to make a little more money off the football program.

--"That doesn't mean we don't have a great football program and it doesn't mean we don't love football, we certainly do." But we're not going crazy and changing our culture. Kentucky is No. 1 in basketball attendance every year and we're usually No. 3 every year. We've been the No. 1 revenue producer in college basketball for the past nine years, so obviously there's great support for basketball here.

--We're playing a much more difficult schedule this year, so we need to be ready to play a lot sooner this year than we have been in years past.

--Mangok Mathiang will probably redshirt the 2012-13 season (see earlier story).

--Mike Marra is going to be rehabilitating his knee, but he's still going to be out there with the guys as a part of the team. Scott Davenport has offered Mike the chance to play for him for two years and get his Master's Degree at Bellarmine. Mike's big concern is that he doesn't want to blow out his knee a third time.

--"This is a special group of young men." There have been some teams I haven't been able to say that about. Even the team that lost to Morehead State when Preston got injured, that was a special group. This team is the same way. They just have to stay grounded and humble. Humble teams are happy teams, and hungry teams reach their potential.

--Saturday is very important. This will not be just pickup basketball, this will be two teams trying to win, trying to keep their turnovers down and trying to execute.

--Pitino loves going to baseball games and he loves the MLB playoffs. If you gave him the choice between going to the track at Keeneland or Saratoga, playing a round of golf at a great golf course or going to a baseball game, he'd pick the baseball game. Outside of reading on the beach it's the most relaxing activity he knows.

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