Leadership, speed & weight loss- Rick Pitino says those are the keys for success for this team

07/09/2014 11:38 AM

UofL head coach Rick Pitino is not ready to crown his team the best in the country, but from what he’s seen in summer workouts, Pitino is excited about how the team is coming together.

“Our front court or back court doesn’t have to take a back seat to anybody,” Pitino said. “I like this team’s potential a great deal. We have a lot of talent and size. The negative is we have to get guys ready a lot quicker than before because of the schedule. We’ve got to get our guys ready physically and emotionally.”

Pitino called sophomore forwards Akoy Agau and Mangok Mathiang the two biggest improvements while junior Montrezl Harrell and senior Wayne Blackshear are providing leadership to the younger players.

“Montrezl doesn’t have to show people he’s the toughest guy on the court. He just needs to lead. And he’s doing that,” Pitino said. “I don’t want to get my hopes too high but this is the best Wayne has looked. It has finally hit him that the sand is running out in the hour glass. I think Wayne had to admit certain things to himself and he did.”

In practice, Pitino said senior guard Chris Jones is dominating teammates in practice and it is all because of a little weight loss.

“He’s an un-guardable guy, but young guys have bad eating habits and that’s the problem with him,” Pitino said. “We wanted to get 10 pounds off him to make him one of the quickest in the country, and it has taken a lot of time. We’re real proud of Chris, because right now he is as good as any guard I’ve coached from a speed quickness standpoint.”

During the summer, coaches get two hours a week to work with players. Pitino said right now he is working with the guys on individual skills but will need to start working with the team on plays in August because of the grinding non-conference schedule.

“We have to be ready right away. You gear everything up in the first two weeks to be ready to play,” Pitino said.

The Cards have until Nov. 14 when Louisville takes on Minnesota in the Armed Forces Classic at the U.S. Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico.

Other Notes

  • Pitino predicts Terry Rozier will have a break-out year.
  • Mangok Mathiang has five percent body fat, according to Pitino.
  • Norwegian signee Matz Stockman is waiting for his VISA to be approved.
  • Chinanu Onuaku likes to be called Nanu.
  • Incoming freshman Jalen Johnson is not on campus because of a delay in academic paperwork.
  • Shaqquan Aaron reminds Pitino of Francisco Garcia. “The bad thing is he has Francisco’s body [type]; the good thing is he’s got Francisco’s game.”
  • Freshman Anas Mahmoud is a little smarty pants and will be an engineering student. Pitino also said he will probably need a red-shirt season.
  • Assistant coach Kenny Johnson has lost 65 pounds since April.

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