The Cardinals return nearly every key contributor from a team that finished third in the ultra-competitive Big East and won 25 games, and Rick Pitino will welcome a Top-10 recruiting class led by McDonald's All-Americans Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan.
Pitino's newcomers will have a chance to learn the ropes and gel with Louisville's returning players during a trip to the Bahamas in mid-August, where the Cardinals will play several games against the Bahamian national team and other professional teams.
Though Blackshear probably won't play because of recent surgery on his left shoulder, the trip will greatly benefit Behanan, a powerful 6-foot-7 forward who Pitino believes will have a major impact for the Cardinals next season.
"The most important thing is to get Chane ready and in shape to play," Pitino said. "It's going to be a little overwhelming for him in the beginning because he's got to physically and mentally get there. He's going to be an impact player right away, but he's got a lot to get on his plate."
A physical inside presence, Behanan is expected to shore up Louisville's chief weakness from last season – rebounding. Behanan, regarded as one of the top rebounders in his class, averaged double digit rebounds as a senior at Bowling Green HS, and grabbed 11 boards in the Kentucky Derby Basketball Classic.
"[You get] ten practices [for the foreign trip], so we'll probably go double sessions and then we will travel to the Bahamas," Pitino said. "The practices are the most important thing from a basketball standpoint.
While the trip will provide valuable experience for Behanan, and fellow freshmen Angel Nunez and Zach Price, Blackshear, one of the Top 20 recruits in the nation, likely won't play in the Bahamas. Blackshear injured his shoulder during practices for the McDonald's All-American game and had surgery shortly afterwards.
"He had successful surgery," Pitino said. "Whether he'll be ready for the Bahamas I'm not sure but he probably will make the trip to see all the things that we're doing. And he will be in for summer school."
Pitino also said he didn't think Rakeem Buckles would play on the trip, though his return to action from ACL knee surgery is expected to occur later this summer. "Why risk it?" Pitino said.
While Blackshear and Buckles probably won't play in the Bahamas, forward Jared Swopshire should be back for the Cardinals. Swopshire missed last season with a groin injury and is currently running on the treadmill as part of his rehabilitation from corrective surgery. Pitino said Tuesday that Swopshire should return to the court in about a month.