Having practiced for nearly two weeks, Pitino said Friday that his team is working hard though he admits that the pace of practice and the demands he's placed on his players during the preseason have been less than they have been in year's past.
"I think our guys are working real hard and I think they have great promise," Pitino said. "We've had to go a lot slower than prior years but that's been by design and I don't think that will hurt us at all."
"Practices have been easier and not quite as demanding," Petino continued. "We have freshmen that are going to play so we've got to get their self esteem up. And these freshmen are impact players so we've got to make sure they're ready physically and mentally."
With the return of 6'8 senior Ellis Myles and the addition of freshmen forwards Juan Diego Palacios and Brian Johnson, Pitino says his team won't have to play a perfect game to compete against the best teams on the schedule this season.
"We almost had to be perfect to win against tough opponents the last few years," Petino explained. "And now because we have more size and athleticism we don't have to be perfect in every little detail."
With the season's first exhibition game, against Kentucky Wesleyan, less than a week away, Pitino is looking to pick up the pace in Saturday mornings Red-White scrimmage.
"We're trying to pick up the pace so I want to see a much higher tempo than last year," Pitino said.
Perhaps the most intersting aspect of tommorow's first scrimmage will be how well sophomore Brandon Jenkins handles the duties at point guard. Jenkins, who Pitino says is the teams most athletic player, is battling junior Taquan Dean for the starting spot at the point.
"From October 15 to right now, Francisco Garcia has been heads and shoulders above everyone else [in paractice]," Pitino said. "Then I think the two most consistent players have been Brandon Jenkins and Otis George. They've been the two best players in practice from both an offensive and defensive stand point."
Lacking true post players a season ago, Pitino predicts fans won't see the glaring weaknesses that plagued his team last season when the team takes the court at Cardinal Arena Saturday morning.
"When you watch us tomorrow you won't see the weaknesses we've had in the past," Pitino said.
DEAN AND JOHNSON ROUNDING INTO FORM
Pitino said junior guard Taquan Dean and freshman forward Brian Johnson are progressing from off-season surgery.
Dean, who had surgery over the summer to correct a double-hernia, and Johnson, who had surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his knee, aren't quite 100-percent, though Pitino expects them to be before long.
"He's progressing the slowest of them all but he's coming around," Pitino said of junior guard Taquan Dean. "But he'll be ready by the start of the Maui tournament."
"From a health stand point he probably has the farthest to come," Pitino said of Johnson. "I'd say he's about 65-70-percent right now. He's always banging his knee but he's very talented and very skilled. The problem is he's missing a lot of [practice] time and understanding the system. But that's fine. He may not be there early in the season but he'll be there their midway through the season."