Cards begin preparing to defend NCAA crown

On Wednesday, the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals began preparing to defend it's crown with individual workouts. Before they hit the floor, Cardinal Authority caught up with a few members of the team and discussed the start of the defending process...

The road to the 2014 NCAA Championship began on Wednesday for the Louisville Cardinals, as players began individual workouts at the Yum! Center practice facility on campus.

While the team lost key contributors Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng from it's 2013 NCAA Championship team, the Cardinals do return 77% of the team scoring and 66% of the rebounding totals from last season. With so much returning and the addition of four talented newcomers, plus Mangok Mathiang, who redshirted last season, Rick Pitino's latest edition will once again be among the nation's elite.

"We know how hard it is to repeat, but we are up for the challenge," junior Wayne Blackshear told Cardinal Authority on Wednesday.

It has been nearly two months since the Cardinals cut down the nets in Atlanta and the team has been anxious to return to work on defending that title.

"Definitely," said Blackshear. "Getting back out there is going to be fun."

While fans continue to celebrate the program's third national title, the players have been waiting for the opportunity to return to the gym.

"I'm ready for us to start getting ready for the season," said senior center Stephan Van Treese. "It's been kind of boring the past month and half because we haven't been doing to much."

The team will lean on Rick Pitino for advice and direction on how to approach a season as the defending national champions.

"Coach has won a national championship before, so he'll have us prepared and have our mindset right," said Van Treese. "We haven't talked to much about it, but I'm sure we will soon."

Part of the growing process the 2013-14 Cardinals will face is how quickly the newest members of the roster will gel with the veterans.

"The new guys on the team, I can tell they aren't afraid to ask questions," said Blackshear. "They have been talking to us about what to expect and how to go about things. That's good for us to know that they trust us."

Senior guard Russ Smith is confident in his new teammates abilities and believes it will be a smooth transition.

"They just need to feed off us and continue to play hard," said Smith. "That's really it."

Now that preparations for the upcoming season are underway, Smith added that he knows what to expect each time the team steps on the floor.

"Everybody is going to come after us," said Smith.

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