Pitino initiates freshmen in first practice

Rick Pitino initiated his young team, which includes five freshmen, during an intense two hour practice Friday night at Cardinal Arena in the Student Activities Center. However, if Pitino had his way, the team would have practiced even longer.

Rick Pitino put his young team through a grueling and intense two hour practice Friday night, but if Louisville coach could have had his way the team would have gone even longer.

"Our practice was supposed to go a half hour longer and we couldn't get to it because they couldn't go anymore," Pitino said. "So we didn't accomplish what we wanted but what got in about 90 percent of the practice."

Perhaps the primary reason why Pitino's fifth Louisville team couldn't go full throttle for another 30 minutes is that he's breaking in six new players, including redshirt freshman Brian Johnson.

"This team is probably the weakest group I've had here from a conditioning standpoint only because we're going to play five freshmen," Pitino said. "Freshmen, no matter how good they are, always have two things. They're not in good shape and they don't play defense."

With starters Juan Palacios and David Padgett still recovering from off-season injuries, Pitino is forced to count heavily on his inexperienced but talented freshmen class. That's certainly not a recipe for early season sharpness on the court.

"Last year at this time in the first practice all our guys knew all the sets we were going to run, now our guys do not know one set," Pitino said. "Obviously we'll look a lot better when Padgett and Palacios are in there. But again, I think this is very good because all of our freshmen are lost and they're going to have to get in there and learn right away where if Palacios and Padgett (were) here then we wouldn't have to rush them along. So I think it's going to be a good thing. It's just going to look bad for about the first two or three weeks."

From the look of things Friday night, Andre McGee appears to be a sure-fire starter at point guard from day one.

"Andre is the most advanced of all the freshmen, but even he has a long way to go at the defensive end," Pitino said.

6-11 David Padgett watched practice with
a boot on his right foot. Pitino said
Padgett would be able to return in three

As for his four other rookies, Pitino is preaching a patient approach.

"They're very talented," Pitino said. "When they grow into their junior and senior class they'll be every bit as good as the group we had last year, if not better. But they're freshmen, and when you play freshmen they're going to make mistakes. So you've got to be patient and let them play through their mistakes."

With so many young players, Pitino says his team will have to become an excellent defensive team this season to overcome the loss of four players, three of whom averaged double-figures last season.

"Right now, we've got to become a good defensive team because we're not going to be anywhere near the offensive team we were last year," Pitino said. "You don't replace (the players we lost) at the offensive end, you've got to somehow compensate by being a better defensive team."

Pitino said he will put his team through two practices both Saturday and Sunday.


"We're not going to be as good as we were last year early in the season, we just want to try and be as good as we were last year at the end of the season," Pitino said. "That's going to be a tall task."

"There are teams around the country tonight having Midnight Madness and they're dunking and having three point shooting contests," Pitino said. "These guys have busted their tails tonight for two hours. This is not easy to do."

"He's really improved and is going to play a lot of minutes this season," Pitino said of junior forward Perrin Johnson, who threw down several rim-rattling dunks during the two hour practice.

"I wouldn't trade him for any other point guard in the country," Pitino said of Andre McGee.

"You've got to get over that screen," Pitino instructed to freshman forward Terrence Williams during a 3-on-3 drill. "You play in the Big East and they're going to bury you with three's."

"If you're imitating a dead person you're doing a great job," Pitino told Brian Johnson, who was defending his man near the top of the key with his hands down.

"The first week of practice is very difficult because they're not used to this," Pitino said.

"We're very inexperienced," Pitino told the crowd. "But by January this is going to be a very good basketball team."

"Tello will be back in a month, and David will be back in three weeks," Pitino said.

If the season started today, these would likely be the first and second units.

Red (Probable Starters)

C - Brian Johnson
PF – Perrin Johnson
SF – Brandon Jenkins
PG – Andre McGee
SG – Taquan Dean

White (Probable Reserves)

C – Jonathan Huffman
PF – Chad Millard
SF – Terrance Williams
PG – Brad Gianiny
SG – Bryan Harvey

Notes and Observations

  • Freshmen guards Andre McGee and Bryan Harvey shot the three pointer extremely well Friday night. Even well into the scrimmage when fatigue had taken over, the two first year players still found the bottom of the net more often than not.
  • McGee looks like he'll be an effective, if not excellent, on-ball defender.
  • Brian Johnson stepped outside and make a few perimeter shots. He was obviously fatigued early in the practice, but looked surprisingly good considering the circumstances.

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