Back in the Saddle

University of Louisville center Ellis Myles will make his return to the Freedom Hall court Wednesday night where he suffered a season ending knee injury in February 2003.

Before suffering a serious knee injury toward the end of the 2002-03 season, Ellis Myles had been a fixture in the starting lineup for the University of Louisville.

Recruited to Louisville by Hall of Fame Head Coach Denny Crum, Myles became just the thirteenth player to start an opening game as a freshman in Crum's thirty years on the U of L bench. In his three seasons at U of L, Myles has started 72 of a possible 87 games, including 54 in his last 56 games.

However, Myles was forced out of action last season following the injury suffered against Marquette near the end of his junior campaign in which he ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee. Prior to the injury, Myles was enjoying a stellar junior season, ranking seventh in Conference USA in rebounding (7.9). His play also proved pivotal in several of Louisville's biggest games that season, including an 11 point, 14 rebound, 5 assist performance in a win over Kentucky.

To say that Myles was Louisville's best rebounder and enforcer in the paint prior to his injury would be an understatement. In 87 career games, Myles has compiled 22 double-digit rebounding efforts. Besides the 14 boards he pulled down against Kentucky in 2002, Myles has grabbed 14 against Marquette, 15 vs. Memphis, 10 against UNLV and Cincinnati, and 11 vs. Georgetown in his career. Beyond those gaudy rebounding numbers, Myles also proved he was the Cardinals best interior defender, evidenced by his team-high 34 blocked shots in 2002.

Myles presence inside was sorely missed last season, especially after injuries began to take their toll late in the season. Without the bruising Myles patrolling the paint, the Cardinals were out-rebounded in nine of their final ten games in 2004, falling to defeat in seven of those contests.

"I don't know how we played without him [last season]," Pitino said. " He's the meanest, toughest person on the basketball court. It was tough playing without him last season because he's capable of getting twelve rebounds every night."

Now fully recovered from his knee injury, Myles said the year away from the hardwood helped his grow up and become a better team leader, an especially critical element this season with so many new faces dotting the roster.

"I've matured a lot and I feel I'm a great leader out here for these young guys," Myles said. "I matured as a basketball player and as a man. The year off helped me improve my mental game and understand the game better. I learned how to carry your friends and lead them in the right direction."

To be certain, Myles is more than ready for his return to duty this season.

"I'm very excited to be back," Myles continued. "It was very difficult sitting out last season because there were times I felt I could have helped the team."

Despite Myles success on the court, and as amazingly as it sounds, the 6-7 ½ senior has yet to play in an NCAA Tournament game. Myles knows this is his last chance to play in the "Big Dance," and believes the Cardinals have the pieces in place not only to earn an NCAA Tournament bid but to do some damage once there.

"This team could be real good," Myles said. "We have players that can play at every position now and that's great. I'm looking forward to playing in the NCAA [tournament] because I haven't played in it once. We have a chance to be real good."

And though Myles has stated publicly that the year spent rehabbing on the sidelines was the best possible thing for his future, he admits that the recovery from surgery and sitting on the sidelines last season was a difficult pill to swallow.

"There were plenty of tough times that I got frustrated because I was sore and couldn't participate," Myles admitted. " But I got though that and that's what I mean that I've matured a lot. The injury was just something I had to deal with."

Pitino is also excited to have Myles back in the lineup and predicts that his bullish center will be better than ever.

"He looks good and he's certainly physically and mentally capable of doing serious damage for our basketball team," Pitino said.

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