Palacios showed promise in Hawaii

Freshman Tello Palacios, one of the nation's top newcomers, performed well against a talented field at the Maui Invitational.

Each year, basketball fans are treated to a deluge of comparisons to past stars. You've heard Dick Vitale, ESPN's legendary color analyst, proclaim this guy to be the next Michael Jordan or that guy the next Kobe Bryant. You know the drill. And you're probably as equally aware that 90-percent of those type comparisons never pan out.

But in rare instances some of the lofty comparisons turn out to be accurate. Fortunately for University of Louisville fans, Rick Pitino's repeated predictions that freshman forward Tello Palacios is the second coming of former Kentucky All-American Jamal Mashburn appear on target, if early results prove an accurate measure.

In four games in Hawaii, including three against a talented Maui Invitational field, the 6-8 Palacios showed considerable promise. Blessed with skills uncommon for a player his size, Palacios likely made many believers with his solid play on the islands.

Palacios started slowly on the islands, getting into early foul trouble against BYU-Hawaii that forced him to the bench much of the game. But once the Maui Invitational got underway, Palacios appeared much more comfortable. He had 9 points and 4 rebounds in a loss to Iowa, then followed with 9 more points and 7 boards against Chaminade. In the fifth place game against Stanford, Palacios scored inside and out, showing his considerable versatility.

"He reminds me of Jamal in so many ways," Pitino said. "Jamal had a power forward's body and a small forward's game. And that's Tello."

"When you look at him you see a 248-pound [guy] but you don't see Ellis Myles," Pitino explained. "You see a small forward's game. He's someone who can handle it, create but still has the big body."

Pitino, who says Palacios is more advanced than Mashburn in certain areas, admits the 6-8 manchild needs to improve his footwork to reach his former star's level.

"In some respects he's not as good as Jamal but in some respects he's a little better," Pitino said. "He's a better runner than Jamal but he doesn't have the footwork Jamal had in the low post or on the perimeter. But they both can handle and pass and have great hands."

Though extremely precocious, Palacios still needs to make significant progress in his understanding of the game to reach his potential.

"Jamal was one of the brightest players I ever coached, he really understood the game" Pitino said. "And because Tello's from another country he didn't grow up with basketball as much as Jamal did."

"But their very phsycially similar because they're both very talented," Pitino continued. "Tello's going to be a terrific player it's just going to take some time."

And as he showed in Maui to an ESPN national audience, Palacios has the ability to shine when it counts the most.

"I think when the lights go on he's going to be a much better basketball player," Pitino predicted of Palacios. "And that's the way Jamal was as well. He didn't knock you over in practice either but when the lights come on they both play better."

And one reason for his success with the spotlight on is a cool and calm demeanor. But make no mistake, Palacios has the heart and desire to be become great and the work ethic and personality to achieve it.

"He has Jamal's personality as well," Pitino said. "Tello has a great personality but he's very low key and easy going. He never gets upset, which is unusual, especially for a freshman because they can be immature at times. He's quite extraordinary."

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