Taquan Dean still has something to prove

Taquan Dean, the University of Louisville's undisputed senior leader, is one of the most accomplished players in Cardinal basketball history. Still, the 6-foot-3 guards feels he has something left to prove this season.

You might not think a guy that earned the 2005 C-USA Tournament's Most Valuable Player award, made 122 three-pointers, and helped lead the Louisville Cardinals to the NCAA Final Four would have much to prove.

But you'd be wrong.

Taquan Dean, U of L's 6-foot-3 senior guard, always feels he has something to prove.

"I've always looked at it like I've got something to prove," Dean said. "There's a knock on me every year – ‘he can't play point guard, he can't do this, he's got injuries.' But that's good for me. I need that."

This season, Dean must prove he can lead the Cardinals without pal Francisco Garcia to lean on. For three years, Dean and Garcia were inseparable on and off the court for the Cardinals. Now, Dean is the undisputed leader for Rick Pitino's young team.

"It's weird with everybody not here," Dean said. "But these (new) guys are good guys and it's fun everyday. I might miss certain guys but these guys are my family too."

Dean is clearly focused on moving on at U of L without Garcia, but that doesn't mean the two amigos don't remain in constant contact.

"We talk every day," Dean said. "He tells me what's going on at that level, and I tell him what's going on here. He tells me how much I'm going to miss college basketball, but at the same time you have to move on."

Dean, the teams' co-captain along with 6-11 David Padgett, prefers to lead his new teammates by example. Instead of talking, Dean would rather allow his actions to set the example for the newcomers to follow. And he's often used his experience to get the better of the freshmen during practice.

"I'm just doing what Reece Gaines did to me as a freshman," Dean said. "Being here four years, you learn a lot of tricks and these guys are young and I can get some of them off on them. It's going to make them better."

Though Pitino has stated often during the preseason that his freshmen aren't up to speed defensively, Dean said that's not exactly the case. In fact, the New Jersey native said the defensive badmouthing from Pitino is one of the coaches' favorite ploys.


Taquan Dean.
"Coach has been saying that ever since I've known him," Dean said. "One year, we won 16 in a row and he said we were the worst defensive team in the country – and we led the country defensively. So Coach is never going to be satisfied and that's the way we have to look at it too."

Left behind by Garcia, and former teammates Larry O'Bannon, Ellis Myles and Otis George, Dean sounds excited by his new teammates' potential.

"Terrence Williams is strong and he's similar to Larry O'Bannon strength-wise as a freshman," he said. "He's going to be good. Chad (Millard) is going to be great and (Brian) Harvey can shoot just like me. Once he gets his confidence he's going to be a great shooter."

Considering the dependency on so many young players, how good does Dean think this team can be by the end of the season?

"Dangerous," he said. "I look at those guys being hurt as a blessing because we're getting the guys some repetitions and confidence going into the season. Once they get back, everybody will be on the same page."

Dean's also optimistic because the Cardinals now have Padgett, a transfer from Kansas, up front.

"I call him the best kept secret because nobody knows what he can do," said Dean. "When you see him on the basketball court he's going to raise a lot of eyebrows because he can run the floor, left/right hook shot, jumper – he can do it all. And he's a great leader."

And while Dean provides quiet leadership for team, Padgett uses a more vocal approach. Dean says that combination is beneficial for the team.

"He works hard and he'll definitely get after you, and that's typical of a big man leader," Dean said. "I lead by example, and he'll speak up."

In reality, Padgett has simply assumed the role Ellis Myles played last season.

"Ellis bullied him (last year), and he's pretty much learned from that," Dean explained.

Even though Dean and his new mates will have a hard time duplicating the experience and chemistry last years Cardinals enjoyed, Dean believes the hard work he and his teammates have put in during the off-season will pay off in the end.

"I've never felt pressure at all, this is fun," he said. "If you put the hard work in good things will happen. If you're good to basketball, basketball will be good to you. That's the way I look at it."


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