Rick Pitino held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to give a spring update on the status of his 2017-18 team and answer questions from the media.
—Opened by apologizing to the fans for going 1-4 in the Masters tournament that he played in last week in Miami.
—Very excited to have Deng Adel back. He worked out for seven teams the last few weeks and did very well in front of all seven. He has all the components to be a terrific basketball player, now he just has to put it all together. He is really tuned into trying to winning a national championship. I kept trying to tell him that it’s not that easy. His other goal is to be a lottery pick. He’s really locked in and he’s coming back for all the right reasons.
—Plans on playing Adel a lot at the two spot. This team should have terrific length and be a fantastic defensive team.
—Our schedule this year is going to be a lot like it was last year. We’ll have one of the top schedules in the country once again.
—Jordan Nwora is here already working out, and he’ll be joined by a few of his more teammates next week.
—The exciting thing about right now is that recruiting has never gone as well as it is right now. We knew Kenny Johnson was a great recruiter, but David Padgett and Jordan Fair are also doing terrific work on the recruiting trail. That’s going great right now.
—Think Mangok would be a great 11th or 12th man in the NBA. He’s got a terrific attitude, plays with a lot of energy and can block shots. He might make it. He could be a second round pick and he could make a roster.
—Jaylen Johnson is a different story. He’ll probably have to work his way up from the D League, but he had a terrific workout with the Lakers the other day.
—Donovan should be a first round choice. We hope he’s a high first round choice. We’re rooting for all of our guys.
—We have 5-7 potential NBA players on this team. We’re going to work on the NBA three-pointer as well as the college three-pointer during individual instructions all year now to try and get some of these guys ready.
—Deng needs to work on his ball-handling and his three-point shooting if he wants to realize his dream of being a lottery pick.
—I’m all for playing freshmen, they just have to earn it. All four of the guys coming in will have a chance to earn starting spots. We’re going to have to rely on freshmen more this year than year’s past.
—Anas has to improve his free-throw shooting and he has to get stronger. Also needs to improve his defensive rebounding. He’s 230 pounds right now, and we want him at 235 by the time practice starts.
—Anas is a really good low-post player. It’s his outside game that needs to be improved.
—Ray’s got the ability to be one of the best players I’ve coached. He’s his own worst enemy sometimes because last year he didn’t put the work in. I think he’s motivated to put the work in this year.
—Three years ago he didn’t know who would be the best pro out of that recruiting class, but Donovan put the work in.
—Still thinks Russ Smith could be a major factor in the NBA. Coaches just have to take the time to get to know him, be patient with his mistakes and give him a chance. If you can get by the blemishes, you have a beautiful face. A lot of coaches just don’t want to do that.
—(Asked if he expected to lose Jaylen) “I thought it was best what he did.”
—We worked out two players last week and told them right afterward that Louisville wasn’t the right fit for them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t great players, it just means this isn’t the right place for them. I also had a good feeling at that point that Deng was coming back.
—Quentin has to improve his first step defensively to keep his guy from going around him. Both he and Ryan McMahon have to learn to draw the charge early on.
—Dwayne Sutton has to learn to play physical. He has to become a killer. I haven’t seen that from him. If he doesn’t, then he’s not going to play.
—Really bullish on Jordan Nwora, but right now he looks really bad. He has one of the highest body fats we’ve seen here, but that will change. He reminds me a lot of Kyle Anderson, who went to UCLA.
—(Asked if he felt he made his case to the NCAA) NCAA hearing was one of the most difficult days and I’d rather not relive those hours so I’m not going to answer that question. Don’t mean that it went bad or good, it was just excruciating, long and tedious.
—Kenny Klein being inducted into the Hall of Fame just means that there’s not much talent at his level. No, Kenny is the Dean of SIDs in the country. He’s the best in the business and we’re all very lucky. He’s getting a truly deserved honor.
—The last two years, we didn’t change the culture, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis did. They kept telling our guys that they didn’t realize how good they have it at Louisville. Guys don’t realize that unless they play other places or until they go out and they play in the D League or in certain places overseas.
—Guys also need to realize that they have a limited window to make a Final Four or win a championship. When you do that, you’re remembered around here forever. When you don’t, it’s different.
—I don’t think anything the NCAA does is going to have an effect on future teams here.
—The collection of coaches we have here at U of L is unbelievable. Really hoping to see the baseball team get to the College World Series.
—Didn’t think Donovan Mitchell was leaving but knew it was possible. You just have to prepare and be ready for it. It’s much more difficult to plan in this era than it was 10 years ago. Only time I’ve been really caught off-guard was with Sebastian Telfair.
—Worked out somebody who could possibly take Donovan’s spot, but we think Deng playing at the two is the best option. Now we have to find someone who can take Deng’s spot.
—Darius Perry is a bulldog defender. He’s a good shooter and he’s a very hard worker.
—Was going to go to the Celtics game tonight, but couldn’t make it. Has been following Terry Rozier and Walter McCarty very closely. Disappointed in Walter’s beard.
You can see the full video of the presser here.