U of L hoops: NCAA Tournament notes

SEATTLE - Shaqquan Aaron is playing at home, Jaylen Johnson expects to play more and a few other nuggets from the University of Louisville locker room in this edition of the U of L hoops notebook. The Cardinals will play UC-Irvine on Friday at 4:10 p.m. ET

AARON HOME AFTER A TOUGH YEAR

University of Louisville freshman Shaqquan Aaron gets a home game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, playing in Seattle where he moved during his high school years.

Aaron played at Rainier Beach, which is about 20 minutes from Key Arena where U of L will meet UC-Irvine on Friday, and said he'll have some family and friends in the building.

The 6-foot-7 wing is now just hoping to get into the game.

"It's been a tough year," he said. "I have just been going hard every day and waiting for my moment. It's nice to be home and see my parents, but I'm just working hard.

"Of course, everybody wants to play more. I'm just trying to take what coach (Rick Pitino) says and do the little things to try and get on the floor."

Aaron has played in 20 games and actually has two starts this season but hasn't had double digit minutes in a game since 24 against Pittsburgh in early February.

"I think Shaqquan's biggest problem (this season) has been physical weakness," Pitino said. "He turns the ball over too much. He has to get stronger."

JOHNSON READY FOR HIS TURN

Pitino has lauded freshman Jaylen Johnson for his improved play in recent weeks during practice and said he would likely see more time in the NCAA.

U of L assistant coach Wyking Jones said Johnson has "taken a big turn," with his confidence and has continued to turn in solid minutes this week in practice.

"He's playing hard, he's doing things he wasn't doing earlier in the season and you can tell his teammates are trying to get him the ball," Jones said. "Hopefully, he can come in there and really help us in the tournament."

Johnson said he's in better shape and that has "been a big deal," in his marked improvement. He's the backup to All-American Montrezl Harrell and said he knew his minutes were going to be limited.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson has played in 20 games and averages just 4.7 minutes a game.

"I thought I could adjust to the college game easier," Johnson said. "I went from ever being on the bench, to watching all the time from the bench. I had to adjust and I had to learn and I think I'm ready now."

PITINO HAS COACHES HERE BEFORE

U of L is playing for the first time in the state of Washington, but Pitino has coached in KeyArena before when he was in the professional ranks.

The Seattle SuperSonics played in the building when they were an NBA franchise.

Pitino has been back to the area to recruit but hasn't been in the building since his days as a professional coach.

"I remember when I was with the Knicks, it was a great road trip for us," he said. "We won three out of five and we were down going into the fourth quarter I think 27 points against Portland. And we came back and I told Patrick, Mark Jackson, everybody, ice down. We're done with this game. And with five minutes to go we tied it. And I said relace yourself, get retaped, and came back and won the game.

"Then we went to Seattle and then we played three overtime games at Phoenix and then played the Lakers and went back home after a fifth game. I forget who. Maybe Sacramento. So Seattle has always been one of the best cities that we used to like to come to to play in as a professional team. It's been a recruiting pipeline for us as well."

The Cardinals have landed Terrence Williams, Peyton Siva and Aaron from Settle.

ANTEATERS FOCUSED ON LATE SEASON

UC-Irvine coach Russell Turner said the Anteaters scouting with Louisville focused mainly on the six games the Cardinals' have played without Chris Jones.

Turner said the Anteaters "looked at" other games but broke down the final six with Quentin Snider as the starter in the point guard spot.

"We focused on the games after Jones left the team more than the others, clearly, because it would be foolish not to do that," he said. "But we have not ignored the others. I've got a really incredibly hardworking staff that's been at work since about 3:15 on Louisville.

I saw something that said that they claim they were scouting us before they got the draw. Good for them if they were. We weren't doing that.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

The NCAA at all championship venues makes sure players, coaches, media members and fans have no drinks with logos. The drunks are poured into 'NCAA' cups.

Rick Pitino to start his press conference said, "As you know, the NCAA makes you put the Vodka in the cup," the coach said laughing.



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