With two of his most experienced players on a team that boasts seven newcomers, including five freshmen – sophomores Juan Palacios and David Padgett - out of commission because of injury, Pitino has chosen to take the optimistic approach to the situation.
"At first we were kind of concerned and upset about it," admitted Pitino. "But now we're looking at it as a blessing because if this team is going to materialize into a good NCAA team the freshmen are going to have to play more than the norm."
When the Cardinals take the court Friday night for the season's first practice, neither Palacios, a 6-8 forward, or Padgett, a 6-11 center, will participate. "They're just coming off crutches and neither guy is doing anything," Pitino said. "They're mending."
Johnson said his knee is finally
Pitino agreed with Johnson's assessment Wednesday, but quickly noted the former Oak Hill Academy star still has some strides to make with his conditioning.
"I don't think he's 100 percent fit (yet) but he's going to start against Bellarmine and I think he'll be able to (make) an impact," Pitino said.
"We'll have the opportunity to play four guys against Bellermine, with the exception of Taquan, that have no experience," said Pitino, noting that two other freshmen, 5-11 point guard Andre McGee and 6-6 forward Terrence Williams would also likely start. "Then we'll come with Padgett and Palacios about two weeks later and I think it will be a blessing in the long run."
Pitino said Palacios and Padgett probably won't start practicing again before the first exhibition. "They won't start practicing for another three weeks to a month," he said Wednesday at the 2005-06 Tip-off luncheon. That would seem to indicate that one or both players could return for the season-opener Nov. 19 against Tennessee-Martin.
"We are going to be very inexperienced," cautioned Pitino. "We have a bunch of freshmen, but they're very talented players. Normally, you'd like to bring them along slowly like we did with Francisco and Taquan. But this group can not do that."
"We have potential, that's what our team is all about," added Pitino. "It's taken us four or five years to reload. We're not looking at rebuilding anymore –we're looking to reload."