Mangok Mathiang eating and improving

University of Louisville redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang is playing center for the Cardinals but he's still not where coach Rick Pitino wants him. Pitino wants Mathiang to improve and gain weight. Cardinal Authority has more on the center.

Mangok Mathiang and chubby don't sound right in the same sentence.

But when he was a little kid, the redshirt freshman center for the University of Louisville basketball team said he was "kind of a chubby kid."

"I kind of miss that now," Mathiang said.

The 6-foot-11 Mathiang only weighs 212 pounds and U of L coach Rick Pitino said he needs to gain some more weight to hold his own in the middle.

The problem is Mathiang is having a hard time getting past that "obstacle" of 212. He's already gained more than 20 pounds since he arrived on campus over a year ago and said he's eating everything in sight.

"I eat all types of snacks," he said with a smile. "Honey Buns, Kit-Kats."

When asked if he was on protein shakes, Mathiang said "Oh yeah, I have all of that in my room also. I have so many protein shakes. Sometime I get sick of drinking it but I just want to gain the weight."

Former U of L center Gorgui Dieng – a close friend of Mathiang who still calls him daily – gained 20 pound in his time at U of L but arrived at 225.

For Mathiang, he said it's a "struggle."

"There's a little part that I can't get over," Mathiang said. "It's a little spot that I just have to get over. But to be honest, we have to have this weight right now. So, that's why it looks like it's taking forever.

Mathiang estimated he's well over five figures in calories a day.

"There comes a point sometimes where the strength coach watches me eat and says, ‘You have to eat this'," Mathiang said. "I just have to eat it."

Pitino said his center is "getting better all the time," but needs more strength and weight to compete in the post and hold his own.

"Great kid, works hard but he's got to front the post," Pitino said. "If he stands behind, he's going to get swallowed up, so he's got to use his speed and quickness, not his strength."

Added Montrezl Harrell: "Mangok's getting better. Remember he's just a freshman so he's going to keep getting better."

Mathiang is averaging 3.7points and 3.9 rebounds in 16 minutes a game for the Cardinals (8-1), heading into Saturday's game with WKU.

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