Padgett to return sooner than expected

While Juan Palacios isn't progressing as fast as had been hoped, 6-11 sophomore center David Padgett is just about set to return.

A transfer from Kansas, Padgett had the protective boot removed from his right foot last weekend. Now, Louisville coach Rick Pitino is eagerly anticipating Padgett's return to practice next week.

"David Padgett is making strides, he'll probably be back sometime next week," Pitino said Thursday. "David is going to (return) a little earlier than expected."

And while Padgett is expected to return to practice next week, Pitino said he's probably at least two weeks away from getting back into the swing of things on the court.

"I think it will take him a week to get back into some semblance of basketball shape, then another week to fine tune it," Pitino said. "I do expect him to play against Bellarmine."

Padgett, the team's vocal leader, said he's doing fine.

"I'm doing good," he said. "My foot is coming along really well - a few more weeks at the most and I'll be back out here. The doctors are very happy. It's looking good."

Padgett wasn't able to do much shortly after the injury - a fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his foot – but now is able to work on his stamina and conditioning for his imminent return to the court.

"For about three weeks (after the injury) I couldn't do much because I was on crutches just letting it heal," explained Padgett. "Now I'm riding the bike, doing the elliptical and some pool workouts trying to keep my cardio up as much as possible and just get some strength back in my legs."

At full strength, Padgett sees his role this season in defensive terms.

"I'm just focused on getting healthy, but when I come back I think I'm just going to have to rebound and block shots more than anything," he said. "Scoring is going to take care of itself in our offense, but coach wants me to get 12-13 rebounds per game."

Always the optimist, Pitino said the injuries to both Padgett and Palacios have been a blessing in disguise.

"I said these injuries would be a blessing, and they have been," Pitino said. "I really wouldn't have paid much attention to Jonathan Huffman this year because he's so physically weak, but now having spent this much time and effort with him we've got ourselves a special basketball player."

"Jim O'Brien came in to watch us a couple days and he said ‘in two or three years down the road, Jonathan Huffman is going to be a special ball player,' and I believe that."

Padgett, though, is simply looking forward to the Cardinals first game of the season Nov. 2 against Bellarmine.

"I'm just really looking forward to getting out on the court," Padgett said.

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