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Rick Pitino Talks Creating Turnovers, Bench Production, And Chinanu Onuaku

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From today's ACC coaches' teleconference

Opening Statement

We know Syracuse has always been a tough place to play for anybody. They're playing extremely competitively right now. They're logging a lot of minutes. Three of their players are playing close to 39 minutes a game, so their best players are always on the court. We've got to be ready, as always, for a very active 2-3 zone.

On the lack of bench scoring

We don't get scoring out of our bench because we really don't play our bench that much. We have a 7-man rotation, sometimes we'll go to 8, but we really rely on our starters. It's the first year since I've been at Louisville where we've done this. Our starters are so much more experienced than the rest of our team, because we have six freshmen, that we go with it that way.

On the inability to create turnovers

I think this team is very inactive with their hands. There's five areas of deflections: blocked shots, 50-50 loose balls, back-tips from the press, just getting your hands on the ball and altering a pass, and then steals themselves. Those are the five areas that make up your deflection chart, and we had been averaging over 35 the last two years, and this year we're averaging 27. Our ones and twos are averaging 5 per game, where as our ones and twos the last two years had been averaging anywhere from 8 to 11.

We're very inactive with our hands, we're not as good of a pressing team as we have been in the past because Chris Jones is the only one who really dogs the ball. We used to get a lot of 5 second counts, and we've gotten very few this year. It's not the best pressing team I've had, and that's one of the reasons why we haven't created many turnovers.

On Chinanu Onuaku

He's a lot like his brother was at Syracuse. He struggles at the foul line, but he's a physical presence. He's getting better and better as he learns to catch the ball better. Most freshmen try to make the move before they look the ball into their hands. He's developing nicely. We think he has a great career ahead of him. He reminds me of his brother in a lot of ways, except his brother was an extremely hard worker, and Chinanu has to learn how to work hard. That's probably the only difference, but there is a big age difference between the two.

On Chinanu's shot-blocking

He's not as good as Montrezl or some of the other guys on the team, but he's going to develop into a very good shot-blocker.

On the effect of him and Jim Boeheim landing Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie at Syracuse

Roosevelt was a bigger name than Louis was. Louis was a sleeper and Roosevelt was a much bigger name. Jim had to get Rosie, and certainly the two of them together. The great thing about those guys was they worked hard and they were humble. No matter how much the fans gave them credit, they always stayed humble. They were throwback guys to the point where it was all about team, never about them. And they were just great guys to be around. You never had to raise you voice to either guy because they always did things right on and off the court. They were gentlemen, hard-workers, and they understood what team was all about.

On the Carrier Dome environment

The best place I've seen that I hadn't been to was Virginia this year. That was a spectacular arena, a great college campus arena. The fans did something I hadn't seen since the Clyde Frazier days  with the New York Knicks. With 12 seconds to go in the game, they all got up and started chanting defense and were cheering for the defense. That was great.

Syracuse is great, but the crowd noise sort of echoes in the place, so after you score it's kind of like an echo. But there's a lot of great places in college basketball to play. I'm very impressed with Syracuse, and I mentioned Virginia, I'm very impressed with them as well.

On Rakeem Christmas

It's a great tribute to Jim and the coaching staff and Rakeem, because when he came out of high school he was very similar to Montrezl Harrell. He was a dunker, a shot-blocker and a runner, he did not have an offensive move. Now he's one of the best low post scorers in the country, and he's got a terrific face-up shot. They Syracuse coaches as well as Rakeem have done a fabulous job of improving his skills. He is one of the premier forwards, I think, in the nation, and it's really exciitng to see someone get that much better.