Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says incoming class will be relied upon this season

Louisville's incoming group of freshmen will be expected to play quality minutes

There are some outside observers that have a belief that Louisville's head coach Rick Pitino doesn't look favorably upon playing freshmen.  Instead, as the belief goes, he prefers to have his first-year players learn from the bench, seeing time on the floor only when the flow of the game would allow without much risk.

On Tuesday, Pitino, a member of the Hall of Fame, disagreed with that notion and had a message for the four newcomers entering the program this season - be ready.

"Some people think that I'm against playing freshmen," he said, before explaining that the reason that V.J. King, a McDonald's All-American, didn't see more game time due to the quality of play from Deng Adel last season.

The incoming class, which checked in at No. 9 in Scout.com's recruiting rankings, includes five-star 6-foot-10 forward Malik Williams, who runs the floor well and has range to shoot from beyond the three-point arc, and a trio of four-star signees.  The group, which also includes point guard Darius Perry, a member of the Scout Top 100, along with forwards Jordan Nwora and Lance Thomas, will be leaned on as key components to the team throughout the 2017-18 season.

"I'm up for playing freshmen and they're going to have the opportunity to start," Pitino said.  "They just have to go out there and earn it.  Not easy to do sometimes, but its possible."

Williams, the No. 4 power forward prospect in the 2017 class, along with Thomas, also a 6-foot-10 power forward, are expected to enter a "tough battle" with junior Ray Spalding during preseason work. 

"Malik Williams could come in this year and start, as well as any of the freshmen, but if there's a guy ahead of them it's tough," Pitino added.

Getting a head start on the process is Nwora.  With school ending early for him, the 6-foot-7 forward is already on campus.

"I'm really bullish on Jordan Nwora, but right now he looks bad - his body," Pitino said.  "He has one of the highest body fats that I've ever seen on a basketball player, but that's the great news because I really love his talent.   He's going to improve when he gets down to eight percent body fat.

"(He) can really shoot, really pass, great guy who knows the game, but his body needs work."

The 6-foot-2 Perry, who wow'd Cardinals fans by scoring 22 points in the Kentucky Derby Classic last month, will arrive on campus with the ability to adjust to the college game defensively, which should increase his opportunities to see the floor early.

"He's a bulldog defender," Pitino said.  "He's a good shooter and he's a good basketball player.  He has a very strong work ethic."

Whether any of the freshmen are able to earn a starting spot or not, all will need to be ready, as each could log significant minutes.

"We are going to rely on freshmen a lot this year, certainly," Pitino said.  "They're going to have to play a lot of minutes."


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