6-11 Huffman making most of opportunity

Jonathan Huffman was the least heralded member of Rick Pitino's nationally ranked 2005 recruiting class. But the 6-11 freshman center has made the most of injuries to Juan Palacios and David Padgett this preseason, drawing high praise from both Pitino and former NBA coach Jim O'Brien.

Jonathan Huffman was the least regarded prospect of Rick Pitino's highly touted five-man 2005 freshmen class.

But that doesn't mean the 6-foot-11, 235-pound center from Mobile, Alabama doesn't have a bright future ahead for the Louisville Cardinals. In fact, Huffman might have the brightest future of any of Pitino's current crop of rookies.

Primarily because of injuries that have kept 6-8 sophomore forward Tello Palacios and 6-11 sophomore center David Padgett off the practice court, Huffman might be the player who has benefited the most from their absence. Once just after thought for Pitino prior to Palacios' and Padgett's injuries, Huffman has impressed his new coach since practice started last week.

"I really wouldn't have paid too much attention to Jonathan Huffman this year because he's so physically weak," Pitino said last week. "But now having spent this much time and effort with (him), we've got a special basketball player. He's probably the slowest in development as far as his body, but he probably has the most potential. If I look at this class and say who's going to go the furthest it's probably Jonathan Huffman."

Apparently, Huffman has also impressed former Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers coach Jim O'Brien, a former Pitino assistant who watched the Cardinals practice last week.

Huffman battled 6-10 Terrance Farley in
the post during Louisville's first practice.

"Jim O'Brien came in a few days and watched us (practice) and said ‘you're going to have a special player in two or three years with Jonathan Huffman,'" Pitino recounted. "I believe that."

Even though Huffman might be ready to contribute sooner than expected for the Cardinals, he's got some important strides to make with his both his game and his body.

"He's weak physically and defensively," Pitino said. "He just needs some maturing from a strength stand point."

Huffman agreed with Pitino's assessment.

"Right now, I need to work on getting stronger, getting some rebounds and blocking some shots, and knocking down some shots to stretch out the defense," said Huffman. "That's pretty much my role right now."

Huffman said he's intent on making strides in both areas that Pitino pointed out for improvement.

"That's my main focus," said Huffman. "Just rebounding and getting stronger in the paint."

Whether or not Huffman develops into the best player in his class remains to be seen. However, it's becoming clear that the Cardinals newest additions are developing a special chemistry during their first semester at U of L together.

"All them are real great guys," Huffman said. "We're always together and we keep each other motivated, especially through practice. So we're going to be a real good class I think."

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