University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said the staff has been taking its time with senior center Mangok Mathiang, who has been sidelined with a foot injury since the Western Kentucky game last December.
Mathiang, one of the Cardinals' co-captains this season, was originally supposed to be out six to eight weeks but never returned the rest of the season and had off-season surgery again on the left foot. He was in a cast until recently and Mathiang said he's "so excited" to get back on the floor and noted that he's hoping it happens next week.
Pitino confirmed the plan is for Mathiang, who is currently working out and running, to start practicing next week.
"We are moving very slow with him to make sure that he feels confident and that he feels good about playing mentally when you come off an injury like that," Pitino said. "But sometime next week he will probably start participating and practicing, and it will probably take him two to three weeks to get back in the groove, and then he’ll be at full strength."
Mathiang said he expects to practice on Monday and Pitino said he hopes his big man is 100 percent before the Cardinals travel to the Bahamas to play Nov. 23 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
"We are doing it the right way," Mathiang said. "Everybody is confident about it and I am confident about it. Me and coach P talk about it every day, physical wise I am going to be fine and now it's all mental for me.
"The team is being patient with me and I appreciate coach helping me through this."
Mathiang said he won't push himself once he gets back full time, noting the Cardinals have depth in the front court.
"I just can't wait to give it a try," Mathiang said. "Coach has taken his time with me and told me whenever I'm ready. I'm excited for next week. I haven't really practiced with the team in almost a year. But I should be fine."