Despite having labeled Louisville's Jan. 2 Big East opener against Providence as his most recent target date for Gorgui Dieng's return to the floor, Rick Pitino now says that the junior center will play, and start, on Saturday against Kentucky.
Perhaps more important than his return to the starting five is the news that there will be no limitations to his playing time.
"There's no easing with the Big East coming up, we're going to start him," Pitino told C.L. Brown. "Even coming off a month layoff he's still a lot better than what we have at that position mainly because he communicates so well. He's smarter than everybody. It's not just the physical part, he talks constantly. He tells people where to go. He picks up the scouting report perfectly."
Dieng has been sidelines since suffering a fractured left wrist during Louisville's win over Missouri on Nov. 23 in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Despite his lack of court time, Pitino says Dieng has been keeping up with his conditioning and is in tremendous shape.
"If he stays out of foul trouble, without question, he's in shape to go the whole game," Pitino said. "He's in great shape right now. We got up a lot of moves, a lot of shots in the past week; it's just his defensive timing is a little off."
Dieng's parents, Momar Dieng and Seynabou Diagne, will be making the trip from Senegal to watch their son play for the first time.
As cool as it is to have Gorgui starting on Saturday, there was a big part of me that wanted him to come off the bench. The atmosphere for the Kentucky game is always a different animal, and can you imagine that roar when Gorgs stood up and took his warm-up off for the first time? I think it would have been enough to rattle the UK players a little bit and give Dieng some leeway to make a few mistakes in his first several possessions back.
Still, can't wait to hear his name again before the game on Saturday.