Taquan Dean ready to lead Cards

<b>TEANECK, NJ</b> -- Sophomore Taquan Dean is confident and ready to lead the Cards next season. He's working hard this summer to prepare for an expanding role this coming season and spoke with ITV about a wide range of topics.

Dean ready to be leader for Cards

6'3 Taquan Dean had an excellent freshman season for the Louisville Cardinals in 2002-03.  Dean averaged 8.8 points per game, was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team and earned distinction as a tough defender and clutch shooter.

This off-season, Dean isn't resting on his laurels and past accomplishments either.

Instead, the 185 pound guard is working hard to develop his ball handling skills in anticipation of seeing time as the Cardinals point guard next winter.

Dean spent the month of June honing his skills in unsupervised scrimmages and working Coach Pitino's basketball camps on the UofL campus.  This month, Dean has made his way back home to New Jersey where he attended the ABCD college players camp last week, competing daily against top college stars like Darius Rice, Hakeem Warrick, Ike Diogu, Kelvin Torbert, Andre Barrett and many others.

Dean is currently playing in the competitive Jersey Shore Basketball League, competing twice a week against players like Troy Murphy, Samuel Dalembert, Todd Billet, Shaheen Holloway, Herve Lamizana, Terrence Rencher, and John Crotty.  Through four games, Dean is torching the nets for a blistering 34.5 scoring average.  He's had games of 41 and 40 and has thrown in games of 30 and 27 for good measure.

"I'm doing real good, " Dean told ITV of his play this summer.  "I just want to open some eyes and improve my ball handling skills."

Playing beside NBA Draft pick Reece Gaines last season, Dean was allowed to play off the ball and focus on what he does best, which is fill it up from downtown.  This coming season without Gaines around, Dean is anticipating an expanded role in the Cardinals backcourt.

"With Reece gone I'm going to have to pick up the load," Dean said.  "You know, we've got Jenkins there as a freshman but it just depends on how he does....I anticipate playing the point but if I don't have to that's even better because I'll just get more shots off."

Ken O'Donnell, Dean's high school coach and the director of the Jersey Shore League, has noticed a big change in Taquan this summer.

Dean played well at ABCD (ITV)

"Confidence," O'Donnell said.  "He just exudes confidence...and he's lighting it up since he's been back."

And with his freshman season behind him, Dean appears poised to assume a leadership role this coming season.

"My first year was getting a feel of the game," explained Dean.  "Now, this year, I know what it takes to step it up another level and being a leader on the floor."

Dean, who has increased his upper body strength this off-season with a daily dose of five hundred push-ups, anticipates the 2003-04 team will get up and down the floor like few others in the college game.

"We're going to get out and run," Dean said.  "No more banging in the paint like last year...we're going to get out like Kansas did last season and run...that's how we're going to do it."

Dean is also excited about the addition of 6'10 Nouha Diakite from Barton County C.C. to this year's squad.

"With Marvin last year, he got a couple rebounds but it wasn't a significant factor," said Dean.  "So with Nouha there now we're going to be able to get out and run more, plus if I get beat on defense he's back there to take it away."

As a participant at the ABCD college players camp last week, Dean was required to work the scoreboard during the high school camp in the afternoons.  On Wednesday, Dean pulled the duty for the Sebastian Telfair - Darius Washington showdown on court two.  He also had a clear rooting favorite for the matchup.

"Actually I wanted him to win," Dean said of Telfair.  "I heard last year that the kid Washington really showed him out, so I wanted Sebastian to come out and get back at him."

Dean got his wish as Telfair badly outplayed the Memphis bound point guard.  Perhaps Cardinal fans can look forward to a future back court comprised of these two New York area stars.

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