U of L hoops feature: Stephan Van Treese

The third in a series of stories published by Cardinal Authority on individual members of the University of Louisville basketball team. The third installment looks at fifth-year senior Stephan Van Treese.

A common theme was evident when the new edition Louisville Cardinals took their turns answering questions during the program's annual media day. The defending national champions are a confident bunch. It was clear that they believe that this team has multiple reasons that point to a proper defense of the NCAA crown.

Fifth-year senior Stephan Van Treese, who played in 37 games last season, believes this year's squad has the potential to duplicate last year's success.

"I think we can be better than last year," he said. "I think we'll get the ball out for more fast breaks than we did last year and we'll have more people playing and contributing. Our press will be even better."

While visiting with Jody Demling on 790 WKRD "The Early Birds" earlier this month, Rick Pitino announced that Van Treese would get the start in the middle.

"Van Treese will start at the five," he said, also adding that, "Van Treese just makes everyone around him better."

The Hall of Fame coach wants 6-foot-9, 245-pound big man to become more of an offensive threat, while also being called upon to help install the L1C4 mentality both on and off the court.

"It's tough to replace two pros," said Van Treese. "Their attitudes, and they were great leaders for the team, but Luke, Russ and myself are going to be guys that need to step up in that role and take over. All the guys listen to us."

While a force on the boards, Van Treese hasn't looked to score often. While he averaged just 1.7 points per game last season, his 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes average was second on the team to now Minnesota Timberwolve rookie Gorgui Dieng's 12.1.

"He is what he is," Pitino said. "I think he needs to, when he gets a rebound, go up and dunk the ball because he can jump. It needs to be a different mindset for him. He needs to look at the basket, go up and tear it down."

It's a simple fix, really. Do want you did last year, but instead of dishing out the rebound, go up and throw it down.

"I need to kind of step into Gorgui's shoes," Van Treese said. "I need to do what I did last year except I need to put more points on the board."

Now in his fifth season learning from Pitino, Van Treese understands the reasoning behind the process and assists the younger players in realising it's purpose.

"I know what to expect now," Van Treese explained. "Nothing surprises me anymore. When coach yells, I listen, but I already know what he's yelling about. Coach does that to get under your skin, to try to motivate you and make your better."

"[The younger players] have to have fun with it," he continued. "Coach Pitino is going to get on you and make you upset. He's going to push you to be the best you can be. I told them that I didn't play that much as a freshman and just kind of went through the motions of learning everything. It just takes time in the system."

Reaching this point in his career has come with a backstory of it's own. Following the 2012 season, a season that with the exception of three early games he missed because of an injury, Van Treese was considering transfer options when a conversation with Pitino reassured his place on the roster. Then again, as last season neared its end, Van Treese was unsure if he'd be granted an additional year until days before the regular season came to an end..

"I thought after last summer I thought I was gone for sure," he explained. "I didn't really know if I was going to be back for this year until the end of last year. Everything works out for a reason, so I'm very happy to be here."

"Obviously I came here to win a national championship, but for it to actually happen, it has been crazy. This is my fifth year now and I've been on a rollercoaster since I've been here. I've enjoyed it."

Following back-to-back trips to the Final Four and claiming last season's national crown, Van Treese and his teammates, veterans and newcomers alike, are motivated by the possibility of becoming what Pitino recently described as being "one year away from a potential mini-dynasty."

"It is different," Van Treese said of the team's preseason mindset. "We have a taste of (the championship) and we want to get that again. That's the goal. All the freshmen coming in are telling us how much they want to get there. They tell the upperclassmen to not get satisfied and we tell the younger guys not to be satisfied with just being on this team. It's all a process of getting there and we know how hard it is."

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