Pitino wants Knowles to 'shape up'

Preston Knowles, Louisville's team captain, was a key reserve on the Cardinals Elite 8 teams in 2008 and 2009. Now, Rick Pitino wants the senior guard to shape up and lead a Louisville squad that is looking to improve its record to 4-0 Saturday afternoon against Marshall.

Preston Knowles, Louisville's team captain, was a key reserve on the Cardinals Elite 8 teams in 2008 and 2009. Now, Rick Pitino wants the senior guard to shape up and lead a Louisville squad that is looking to improve its record to 4-0 Saturday afternoon against Marshall.

Before the season, Pitino, who has five new starters in the lineup, wasn't sure who would lead Louisville in scoring this season. Through the first three games, the Cardinals have had three different leading scorers. Knowles, who is second on the team in scoring average behind Terrence Jennings, led UofL with 14 points in Tuesday's 106-65 win over Chattanooga.

"I think Preston Knowles probably will be the guy who is the best [scoring] threat, but he's still not in the condition I want him in," Pitino said. "He still has to lose 4 or 5 pounds to play this way. He struggles with it because he doesn't eat properly. So we're trying to get him to eat properly."

Pitino wants Knowles, who has been slowed early this season with a thigh bruise and back spasms, to decrease his weight from 196 to 192.

"Right now he's getting his conditioning back," Pitino said. "He needs to be lighter and in better shape to play this way. When he [is] he'll shoot a higher percentage. We struggled the same way with Jerry Smith."

Knowles averages 12.7 points per game, but is shooting only 34 percent from the floor. Though he's taken some ill-advised shots early in the season, Pitino isn't down on Knowles' shot selection, at least publicly.


Rick Pitino is pleased with his teams overall play this season.
"He'll take one or two bad shots a game, but in this style of play it's tough not to take an occasional bad shot because they play so fast at times," Pitino said. "You've got to give them some latitude in that area. We want them to ball fake and make the extra pass, which they're doing an excellent job of, but Preston once in a while will take a challenged shot. I just want to him to be in better shape."

Pitino said he wants Knowles in better shape, "because he rests too much on defense off the ball." Still, Knowles leads the team in steals and averages nearly four boards from his shooting guard position.

"He dogs the hell out of the basketball, but he rests off the ball and he can't do that," added Pitino. "We need him to play more minutes."

Though Knowles has hoisted a few questionable shots early in the season, Pitino says he's been pleased overall with his team's shot selection. Louisville is shooting a respectable 46 percent from the floor with three starters shooting at least 50 percent.

"They understand when to look for a layup, when to look for a three, when to reverse the basketball," said Pitino. "They've been doing a good job. They've been grasping it well. They are a very unselfish group. They're very willing to sacrifice. They're a good group to coach."

Pitino has been especially pleased with his team's passing early in the season. Louisville has dished out 62 assists through three games, including an amazing 29 against Chattanooga, something Pitino called a "very positive sign" for his young team. Peyton Siva and Mike Marra are tied for the team lead in assists.

"We get most of our assists by ball movement," said Pitino. "We're encouraging the guys to make the extra pass to create player movement and ball movement. We don't have great breakdown people off the bounce, so we've got to move the basketball."

Pitino isn't just pleased with his team's willingness to share the ball. The Cardinals are averaging 85 points per game, out-rebounding opponents by five per contest, and have played excellent defense, limiting foes to 25 percent three-point shooting, while blocking six shots and forcing 13 steals per game.

"I'm pleased with this team top to bottom," said Pitino. "We have a lot to work on. We're by no means a great basketball team. But I'm very pleased with everything about this basketball team, their desire to play, their willingness to learn, their eagerness to be early, their attitude, their support of each other. It's all good. We just have to keep on winning."

With 10 of the next 11 games at home, including Saturday's 1 p.m contest vs.Marshall, Louisville has an opportunity to put together a solid winning streak before the start of Big East play, which looks stronger than expected after Uconn, picked 10th in the preseason coaches poll, knocked off Top 10 foes Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.

"Marshall has a very experienced team in many areas," Pitino said. "They lost to Chattanooga because they gave up 12 three's. But they're very athletic and the problem that they pose is they have a 6-foot-4 point guard who looks to post up people. They're very physical on defense, they're athletic and they get up and down. So this is a tough, athletic club coming in."


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