Rick Pitino appeared on "The Early Birds" show with Drew Deener this morning and addressed several of the recent happenings within the Louisville basketball program. The following are highlights:
--Says Rakeem Buckles is "almost like a son to me" and their relationship is one of the closest he's ever had with a player.
When he and Buckles talked earlier this summer, they laid out two potential paths. The first was him being a role player at U of L when he came back from his ACL injury and starting the process of becoming a coach. The second was him going to FIU, playing 30 minutes per game, playing professionally overseas and then coming back and beginning a coaching career. Rock talked with Richard and then told Rick that he really wanted to play significant minutes, and Pitino told him that he had his blessing.
--He and Rakeem had five conversations about this, and the reason he took so long to make the decision was that he wanted to see how his knee rehabilitation came along. If he didn't feel like his knee was getting any better then he was going to stay here. He actually wanted to wait until the end of July to make a decision, but he came in the other day and felt his knee was good enough to go ahead and make the announcement and Pitino gave him the Ok.
--Reiterated that Montrezl Harrell is the best player he's ever picked up this late in a recruiting year. He's a tremendous competitor who gets himself involved in every possession. He'll play both the four and the five next season. We go into every season with no starters so he'll compete with those guys for a starting spot. Obviously he thinks that Chane and Gorgui will both start next year, but they still have to earn it. Even if he doesn't start, Montrezl is going to play major minutes right away.
--There is no chance of Stephan Van Treese returning now that there is a scholarship available.
When he and Van Treese originally talked, Pitino told him to go to Bellarmine, play 35 minutes a night, get his game back and then come back to Louisville the following year or another D-I program the following year. He and his father have chosen to go in a completely different direction and are looking to transfer to another Division-I school.
--There are players out there that the staff might go after with the one remaining scholarship, or they may just hold the scholarship. He doesn't know right now.
--The maximum scholarships they'll have available to spend on the class of 2013 is probably four.
--Thinks all the speculation about players leaving for the NBA right now is silly. It doesn't matter what he thinks about a player going pro or even what the player thinks, it matters what Stu Jackson and the committee thinks.
Peyton Siva came to him after last season and told him that he was thinking of putting his name in for the draft. He called Stu Jackson and asked him what he and the committee thought, and they said he wasn't ready. It was the same situation with T-Will.
This speculation always starts after teams do something like go to a Final Four, but all that really matters is what those pro scouts and that committee thinks.
As of this moment he can't see anybody leaving early for the NBA. Now if Chane Beanan improves his jump shot and his overall game dramatically, he's a possible candidate to leave and that's why Montrezl was so important. If Gorgui improves his offensive game then he could be another candidate. Right now, though, that's not a reality.
--Chane has to develop technique and confidence with him jump shot to be a great player. Right now he doesn't want to be a jump shooter. Until he gets that confidence to keep shooting even when he's missing, he's not going to be a next level player because he's going to have to play the three in the NBA. He's working very hard at it.
--He's very excited about this basketball team because they have the same great attitude of last year's group, but they have a little more ability.
--Kevin Ware is playing better than anyone right now during individual instructions. He's hitting his mid-range jump shot and displaying that same scary athleticism.
--The other person that has really stood out is Russ Smith. He's gotten a lot stronger and right now nobody can guard him. We've still got to work on his turnovers and bad shots. He's also gone from someone who couldn't guard anyone when he got here to one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. Peyton Siva is getting so much better because in practice Russ isn't letting him breathe when he's got the ball. He forces Peyton to be great every time down the floor.
--With Terry Rozier's eligibility, it's all about his summer scores and re-take of the ACT. It's like that with one recruit every year. Thinks he'll make it, but admits that the likelihood is "70/30" right now.
--Regarding Jared Swopshire, he played 7-8 minutes a game last season and had the experience of playing in a Final Four. Told him it was time to be selfish and go somewhere and play 30 minutes every night and be a featured player. He was all about the team for four years, now it was time for him to put himself first. In terms of these decisions, it's all about putting the player first and putting yourself in his shoes. These guys want to play big minutes and in all these cases it'd be unfair to them to lie and say it's going to happen here.
Has no regrets with losing guys like Rakeem and Jared because they are players who gave us everything they had for multiple years and deserve their own time in the spotlight. It's not about those three guys (Swop, Rock and Van Treese) not being good enough, it's about them coming off of serious, serious injuries and needing to go somewhere where they know they can ge healthy and then play solid minutes.
--I think the fans have loved our team's attitude the last two years. This year's team has that same attitude but much more physical talent. They have to make sure to stay humble and also how to play as the hunted as opposed to the hunter this year because teams are going to see their ranking and be gunning for them every night.