Pitino talks schedule and more

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino met with the media on Wednesday night at Captain's Quarters during U of L's ACC Kickoff Celebration. Check out what Pitino had to say about the new schedule and his players.

With games on the schedule against 16 teams that made it into the postseason last year, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said the new schedule will be "extremely challening," for his Cardinals.

"I don't know if excitement is the word," Pitino said with a laugh. "It is extremely challenging for a team that lost a lot. And I mean that. We're going to play a Minnesota team that has everybody back from a team that won the NIT Championship. We're going to play Ohio State at Western, of course Kentucky, Indiana.

"It's quite challenging and that's not to mention the ACC."

Pitino also talked to the media on Wednesday night at Captain's Quarters about a number of other topics, including Jaylen Johnson.

Just ruled eligible on Monday by the NCAA, Johnson has been through a couple of individual instruction sessions with the Cardinals' staff and Pitino said he's been impressed.

"He's really not that far behind," Pitino said. "He stayed in good shape and he's a competitor. He's someone physically ready to play. The biggest thing you are going to be shocked with, the conditioning of Chinanau (Onuaku) from what you saw (at the Derby Classic). You will be blown away."

Pitino said his injured players are getting better. Wayne Blackshear has been hampered by a deep thigh bruise but is working out again, while Chris Jones is recovering from a leg injury and Akoy Agau had surgery for a sports hernia.

"(Jones) is fine," Pitino said. "Those little injuries that you have this time of year, you never concern yourself with. . . . One of the strengths of our basketball team is that we have a strong starting five, one of the questions marks is how strong can our bench become. In the last two years, we have lost four dynamic players. So who is going to step up - Terry (Rozier), Chris (Jones) and Montrezl (Harrell) will step up into primary roles. So now it's a matter of who steps up into their roles."

Pitino said the two freshmen 7-footers - Matz Stockman and Anas Mahmoud - are "projects." He wasn't sure what he would do with either in regards to a redshirt year at this point.

"Most 7-footers I have had in my life are projects," he said. "I had a young man - he wasn't quite a 7-footer - but Nazr Mohammed who couldn't get through one practice as a freshman. These two guys are 7 feet and they don't have the basketball metabolism to play in this physical environment but both of them are going to be very good basketball players. They won't see a lot of time this year though."

Pitino said he had to be careful with using a redshirt this season because if "everything goes according to hoyle with this years recruiting class," the Cardinals might not have a scholarship available in the Class of 2016.

"Something always pops up," he said. "You can always count on maybe one thing popping up, but we just have to be careful with redshirting."

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