Rick Pitino has been preparing his team for that trip with some grueling summer practices, and provided a detailed practice report on his website, RickPitino.com, Thursday morning.
"The three days of work were difficult for most and easy for Peyton [Siva]. He was the only one in terrific basketball shape. Let's go through the rundown of the three days of practice:"
Peyton Siva - Our point guard is in excellent shape. Making good decisions and extremely effective in a fast paced game. Outstanding leadership ability and should be ready to compete against a very difficult schedule.
Chris Smith - He is also in very good shape, having worked hard in May and June. Consistent jump shot and willing passer. Would like to see him be more of a factor on defense. Steals and rebounding are still missing from his game. But he works hard on everything you tell him.
Kyle Kuric - King Kyle has spent most of his time working on getting to the rim. He has improved his mid-range jumper and left hand dribble. The only thing absent for him in the three days was competition. Peyton and Kyle did not get anyone who could make it difficult for them to score. That will change in September,
Gorgui Dieng - Stronger and improved, but still has a long way to go in the strength department. Front court players , especially centers, develop slower than the other positions. He uses his finesse to score and has a good grasp of passing. Excellent offensive rebounder and marginal on the defensive backboard due to a lack of strength. His incredible length will get him six or seven offensive rebounds in our segments, but he will go through an hour with just a few defensive boards. We will continue to emphasize defensive rebounding with him. Make no mistake about it, this young man has great potential.
"Those four players stuck out as BIG EAST ready athletes," Pitino wrote. "Now as Paul Harvey says "Here is the rest of the story"…
Rakeem Buckles, Jared Swopshire, Wayne Blackshear, and Kevin Ware did not compete. Luke Hancock (transfer from George Mason) is a few weeks away from competing. His shoulder is on the mend and he will be ready to go shortly.
Elisha Justice (AKA The Bullet) – Had a concussion the first day because someone did not call out a back screen. Without question, the toughest aspect to teach young players is being verbal. With just a little fatigue, it is a difficult assignment for new players in the system. To be an outstanding defensive team, players must talk constantly. Bullet will just need a week off.
Angel Nunez - When we offered him a scholarship, it came with much trepidation. Was highly regarded in New York City as a sophomore, but then spiraled down the next two years. Why did I gamble on him? He reminds me so much of Francisco Garcia (Angel's idol) and not because he is a fellow Dominican. Same body type, long and thin, outstanding shooter with excellent form, and same defensive type as Francisco -- which means he can't defend Vinny Tatum, our esteemed equipment manager. His defense is non-existent and will take time to learn. He must get considerably stronger. If his attitude could ever match one of my all time favorites, then we might have another Garcia. We will see, but I love his potential.
Zach Price - He lacks quickness and stamina. At 6' 11, he is strong enough to bang with players in the BIG EAST. We will concentrate on improving his foot speed and making moves off his right shoulder. Outstanding attitude and will pay the price to improve. These early practices will benefit him as much as anyone. We will need him to give us valuable minutes.
Mike Marra - The third practice was his best. Understands the game and communicates well on defense. At times he shows flashes of great play. Would love to see him become more ambitious and goal oriented. Very bright with a high basketball IQ. He has been battle-tested in the BIG EAST and will be a dependable player on our team.
Stephan Van Treese - Has worked on improving his jump shot. I see definite improvement. But it's like a couple of golf lessons -- unless you stick with the fundamentals and mechanics of good form, you lose it quickly. Stephan is ready to physically bang. He is strong and runs well. There is a long way to go but he can make great strides this season.
Russ Smith - Ralph Willard has had long meetings with him. Stevie Mass also. Add me to the mix multiple times. Russ just does not want to be a point guard. There was a point in our scrimmage where he took six shots in 42 seconds. Pure and simple Russ Smith wants to score. That's his mind set and we will go with it. We moved him to the two guard and will play Tim Henderson at the one. That will suffice until Bullet recovers and Kevin Ware joins the team. Obviously, he must get stronger to play the wing position. Quick on defense and wonderful young man. Let's hope he can make the transition.
Tim Henderson - Tough and hardworking. Needs to talk more on defense. Tim is a joy to coach. Competes hurt and never backs down. He will play some point in the Bahamas. I hope the Bahamians have head gear. His passes can decapitate anyone at anytime.
Mark Jackson - Can't really evaluate until he gets into shape. Coming off a knee injury, probably won't play in the Bahamas, but will be ready in September.
Chane Behanan - Last but by no means least. He has exceeded my expectations. Strong Points: High IQ and picks up instruction quickly. Ray Ganong , our strength coach who has performed his duties in football as well, states Chane measures the widest calf and thighs of any athlete he's ever measured -- linemen included (calf is 19 3/8", thigh is 27 ¾"). You would come to the conclusion that he would be very slow, but it's just the opposite. Quick, strong, and jumps extremely well. When balanced, an adequate shooter. Really, really impressed with his potential. Where does he need to improve? Like most freshman, his understanding of defense is lacking. But he's a quick learner. He lacks the little fundamentals that most great players possess. For example, setting a screen and opening up, using an interior bounce pass, how to use a pick and roll against aggressive defense. This will all come. Bottom line is he's a big-time talent if he stays humble and hungry. Our fans will love watching his development.
For more from Pitino, visit RickPitino.com